Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Pitch black Allen is groping in the dark

ANNIE Hall, Manhattan, Zelig, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Manhattan Murder Mystery...

ANNIE Hall, Manhattan, Zelig, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Manhattan Murder Mystery...

These are the films for which Woody Allen remains best known, along with more recent efforts such as Match Point (2005), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and 2013’s Blue Jasmine, for which Cate Blanchett was awarded the best actress Oscar.

The quality of Allen’s films may be a bit patchy, but the hits mean his place in film history is already assured. As such, he can count on being able to attract the brightest and best acting talent.

Irrational Man stars the three-times Oscar-nominated Joaquin Phoenix opposite Emma Stone, whose turn in Birdman saw her nominated for best supporting actress.

At the small-town New England college campus of Braylin, recently arrived philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Phoenix) finds himself in the midst of an existential crisis — but he eventually discovers a new purpose in life when he enters into a relationship with one of his students, Jill Pollard (Stone).

While eating together at a diner, Abe and Jill overhear a conversation in which a woman describes how she will lose her children in a custody fight because of a certain seemingly unethical family court judge.

Abe is troubled by the injustice and, without telling Jill, decides to help the woman by murdering the judge — reasoning that since he is not related to the case he would not be suspected.

What follows is high-end farce mixed with pitch black comedy.

After resolving to act, Abe learns that the judge has the habit of jogging in the park and afterwards drinking a cup of orange juice on a bench.

A plan forms in his mind, and he steals a key to the college’s science lab from one of his colleagues, Rita (Parker Posey), with whom he has an on-off sexual relationship. What could possibly go wrong, right?

Without knowing it, Irrational Man marked the closing of a chapter for Allen, as the film was his producer Jack Rollins’s final project before his death in June, aged 100.

Rollins had worked with Allen since the Seventies, so it remains to be seen what impact his loss will have, but we know enough about Allen to be able to say that he would never willingly retire.

And why should he? Blue Jasmine might have stopped just shy of being the return to form that everyone had hoped for, but it was still an enjoyable night at the cinema.

Irrational Man is at the Henley Regal Picturehouse from today (Friday).

Review: Matthew Wilson

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