Irrational Man full movie review - Overload of philosophical clichés. Plot with potential but execution fails. Could have been thought provoking and a thriller, but is actually neither
I state upfront that I see perfect ideas behind the plot, but it is a pity that it took almost a full hour to establish that there was indeed a real choice to be made, a stret
ch during which we witnessed philosophical and existential reasoning about the meaning of life and death in all its intricacies. This 1 hour delay would have been fine with me were it not that the dilemma miserably failed to manifest itself in full, not even in the last half hour when the story really took off. Of course, the first hour provided for ample background information about the protagonists, meanwhile showing why a judge suddenly became Abe's target and how the actual murder was to be carried out (this is not a spoiler, as it is clear after 15 minutes that this planned murder is the piece of resistance).
All this would have been better to digest when there was some humor intertwined within the proceedings. I don't think that the laughable ending was meant to work as a humoristic relief (it isn't). It is true that it solved all problems at once, though no one will live happily ever after. Still another possibility to improve my movie experience might have been using believable actors, convincing in what they say rather than merely throwing quotes and other pseudo wisdom around without demonstrating any conviction in the clichés we see passing. The wise words did not fall on fruitful grounds for me, so again an opportunity dearly missed. If you ever need a deterrent to keep people from studying philosophy, this is the movie of choice to show them.
Below paragraphs leave all the above for what it is, and focus on the contents of the story as it develops. It is the only part of the movie that had potential and could have been interesting, hence deserves some extra lines of explanation why it failed in my opinion.
The first hour mostly intends to portray a semi-scientific setting by means of random classroom snippets, amplified with private discussions between our main characters outside university walls. Nearly all of them are pro's or near-pro's in philosophy, hence an uncountable number of quotes from world renowned thinkers is passing by. In spite of its good intentions, it merely fills the time, and nothing more than that. We even may construe it as dressing-up a scientific basis that was desperately needed, in order to hide a shallow story and similarly poor development of the material at hand. Yet, I must admit that the latter was promising in many respects, but regrettably got no chance to rise to its full potential.
Overall problematic for me is that the story development is burdened with at least four practical issues. FIRSTLY, I question whether the judge in question really was as bad as he seemed to be considering this single case, wherein he allegedly was prejudiced. But how can we be sure, having heard only one side of the story, especially in a divorce case like this where the custody of children was at stake, mostly involving a lot of mud throwing. SECONDLY, though presented to us as the perfect murder of the century, the amateurish preparations and the many ways he could have been exposed even before the final action, stretched our belief unnecessarily. THIRDLY, main characters Abe and Jill see each other frequently, in and out of the classroom. Everyone is talking about it. Strangely enough, no faculty administrator seems to take action, yet such close contacts are definitely against university house rules. We know they only meet in the open and that Abe flatly refuses any intimacy, but everyone else is bound to assume otherwise. FOURTHLY and finally, the murder story of the judge seems to dominate the front pages for many weeks, as if nothing more happens in the area. When one woman connects the dots and develops a theory about the real murderer, several weeks after the fact, her word spreads unnaturally and unconvincingly fast. Given the few things she actually had to support her theory, it seems far-fetched that the rumor got that far in the first place, and that it eventually reaches Abe and Jill.
In the final scenes when a false arrest is made for the murder, the story gains real momentum after all. Alas, that part is condensed in a time frame that is too small. This finale and its underlying dilemma deserved much more attention and depth, allowing the rushed choices by the main characters ample time to gradually develop. It would have made this movie so much more interesting. In other words, the first hour could have been shortened by losing most of the random philosophical quotes inside and outside class, in favor of the finale that now has all the looks of a rush job. I regret being unable to elaborate on this part of the story and dwell on a few examples to clarify my comments, as this will give away too much of the surprising plot twists.
All in all, the many positive reviews did put me on the wrong foot and convinced me to finally go and see a Woody Allen movie, in spite of my resolutions many years ago to do that never ever again. It was promising that Woody Allen himself downplayed his product with several jokes about its deepness, but it made me expect more than actually delivered. Could have been thought provoking, but was drowned in life and death clichés. Could have been a thriller, but the story runs its amateurish course and lacks all form of tension. I wonder how viewers had reacted when unaware who the director was. It is very well possible that I do not belong to the ideal fan club of (t)his kind of movies, so I reinforce my previous resolution of not ever going to a Woody Allen movie again.