A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Irrational Man has a similar DNA to most Woody Allen films: It's about an older man hobbled by a bleak outlook on life who grows enamored of a sunny, lively younger woman; infatuation, murder, and chaos ensue. Though the subject matter is fairly serious, there's not much actual violence here; a man poisons a stranger and plans another death, someone tries to throw another person down an elevator shaft, and a character messes with a gun at a party. The entanglements are played pretty lightly, too; couples are shown kissing and in bed (though there's no explicit nudity). Expect some swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and more), drinking (one character is an alcoholic), and drug use (weed is offered).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) is a brilliant professor with a reputation for being difficult. He takes a new position at a Rhode Island college, arming himself with his usual brand of depression, cynicism, and pessimism. Despite this -- or perhaps because of it -- a married colleague (Parker Posey) grows enamored of him. But it's Abe's smart and inquisitive student, Jill (Emma Stone), who transfixes him. She, too, is smitten, despite being devoted to her preppy-but-boring boyfriend. When Abe and Jill overhear a conversation at a cafe about how a corrupt judge might adversely affect the life of a mother and her child, Abe finds renewed purpose, starting him down a path he might not be able to escape.
Is it any good?
Woody Allen repeatedly explores the same themes, but he's more successful in some films than others; in IRRATIONAL MAN, the filmmaker ends up -- just barely -- on this side of triumph. He draws out engaged performances from the three main actors: Phoenix practically oozes joy when Abe turns surprisingly gleeful, and Posey nearly steals the movie playing a madcap professor in the throes of a midlife crisis. (Or perhaps she's just bored with her status quo.)
The movie is best when the actors do and not say (via one of Allen's staples, the good old voiceover) and when we're left to revel in the summery charms of Rhode Island, where Allen filmed. Still, there's an eloquence missing that's evident in the director's classics, such as Crimes and Misdemeanors (to which this can be compared, given the crime) and the more recent Midnight in Paris. Perhaps it's time to return to NYC?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the recurring themes in Woody Allen's movies: morality, the meaning of life, and human failings. Does he bring anything new to the table here? Does he have different themes/types of movies in his canon?
How does Irrational Man portray sex and relationships? Is the relationship between Abe and Jill appropriate? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values on these topics.
What role do drinking and drugs play in the movie? Are there consequences for those who use them?