Woody Allen has often posited that life is meaningless, and critics seem to share the same opinion about his latest film, “Irrational Man.”
The Sony Pictures Classics release follows a college professor (Joaquin Phoenix) as he engages in an affair with a student (Emma Stone) and plots the murder of a corrupt local judge.
Reviewers are knocking the film for a seeming lack of direction and a coherent narrative. It currently sits with a disappointing 44 percent approval rating from critics counted on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Phoenix’s transformation from a Scotch-soaked pile of tweed into a homicidally self-righteous ubermensch is fun to watch, but Allen too frequently loses sight of the story he’s telling,” TheWrap‘s Inkoo Kang wrote in her review of the film.
Los Angeles Times critic Mark Olsen was on the opposite side of the critical spectrum.
“In its own strange, deliberate way the film does wind up feeling surprising, fresh even, as Allen finds new ways to explore some of his most longstanding preoccupations,” Olsen wrote. “The film’s most unexpected wallop, right at the end, is a deeply felt consideration not only of how decisions and actions alter the main character of Abe but also his unintended collateral victims and what they are forced to live with after.”
He appears to be in a growing minority, though, so here’s six more jabs from critics in the unsatisfied majority.
Matt Zoller Seitz from RogerEbert.com:
“It is not merely a bad film. It is a collection of notes for a film that never quite evolved to the rough draft stage, much less cohered into a finished movie. That makes it more dispiriting than other notorious Woody Allen misfires, like ‘Celebrity’ and ‘Curse of the Jade Scorpion’ and ‘Scoop,’ where at least you could kind of see what the filmmaker was going for, and sense the movie lurching in a certain direction even as it kept stumbling over its shoelaces and crashing into things.”
Kirk Honeycutt from HoneycuttsHollywood.com:
“So everything falls flat — drama, characters, overreaching dialogue. Well, not the acting which is not-so-bad under the circumstances. The ending with a sight flavoring of Hitchcock is equally forced and unconvincing, a thing tacked on to get to The End rather than to arrive at an ending organically.”
Rex Reed from the New York Observer:
“In Woody Allen’s 45th film, he poses the question: Can a murder that makes the world a better place really be considered a crime if nobody catches you? Not exactly a write-off, but nothing memorable, either, Irrational Man is a sardonic exercise in cynicism that will most likely appeal to the same pretentious art-house eggheads it’s making fun of.”
Lou Lumenick of the New York Post:
“Woody Allen, who’s claimed to have a drawer full of story ideas written on scraps of paper, scrapes the very bottom of that drawer with ‘Irrational Man,’ a turgid and threadbare crime drama featuring some of the poorest performances of his directing career.”
Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger:
“But ‘Irrational Man’ isn’t a comedy. In fact it’s not even a very good movie. Flatly shot and dully told, it’s just this year’s film in what, for Allen, long ago became an unbreakable annual tradition, a way for our most famous amateur existentialist to somehow validate his own existence.”
Edward Douglas from ComingSoon.net:
“While I hate it when Allen makes a movie I just can’t get into, this may be his worst effort since Cassandra’s Dream, and if you’re asking ‘Which movie is that?’ then that gives you some idea how erratic Allen has become as a filmmaker when only one of every five of his movies makes much of an impact or gets any attention.”