There is a singular quality in the films of Woody Allen that I may never come to properly understand. His films can, at times, be pretentious. They can be implausible. His characters can seem hackneyed, or two-dimensional. Yet, for whatever reason, I find myself unavoidably drawn into his fictional worlds, magnetised by the people that populate them and captivated by his convoluted ideas.
Allen’s latest film Irrational Man, opening in Oz on the 20th of August, is no exception to this rule. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Abe Lucas, a jaded philosophy professor, and Emma Stone as his utterly enamoured pupil, Jill Pollard. Unsurprisingly, the pair ooze charisma as they ease into their unlikely (or should that be very likely?) relationship.
Not content with the predictable confines of a romance drama, Allen steers the film in an unexpected direction, and the darker elements of a crime mystery are introduced, somewhat reminiscent of his earlier film Match Point. True to previous form, The Irrational Man is brimful with philosophical musings (remember this is the man who tried to portray Owen Wilson as ‘deep’) which are by turns strikingly poignant and strikingly not. Audiences are confronted with an interesting dilemma; is bullshit still bullshit if it’s self-reflexive? If characters are aware of their own clichés, does that remove the cliché?
There are questions that require a brighter spark than I to answer them, so I’ll assign myself a simpler one:
Did I enjoy the film?
Yes, unreservedly. I squirmed with delight, I cringed, I chuckled, I admired the way Emma Stone realistically re-wore the same clothes occasionally, and most of all I enjoyed it.
I don’t entirely know why. I may never know why. I implore you all to see it for yourselves, and perhaps someday you’ll be the one who explains to me the phenomenon that is the inimitable Woody Allen.