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Joaquin Phoenix, as Abe Lucas, an alcoholic philosophy professor and Emma Stone, as Jill, Lucas’s star pupil.

Sabrina Lantos

1 out of 4 stars

Written by
Woody Allen
Directed by
Woody Allen
Starring
Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English

Woody Allen casts Joaquin Phoenix as Abe Lucas – the intellectual heartthrob as a depressed, beer-bellied, impotent, alcoholic philosophy professor often described as (but never demonstrably) "brilliant" and "charismatic."

These descriptions come chiefly by star pupil (and the one wide-eyed co-ed to rule them all) Emma Stone, who as fawning Jill strains the limits of naiveté and credibility.

Ostensibly about the theory and practice of ethics, if the existential dramedy Irrational Man weren't so clumsy it could almost be a self-parody.

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The actors don't act or show, they tell – and tell, and then tell some more, in relentless expository dialogue.

The smartest person in the room is chemistry teacher Rita (Parker Posey, also the most interesting presence in the movie, who manages to wring believability even to her sex-starved, middle-aged cliché).

A vigilante plot bit straight out of Highsmith cannot help this movie; nor can pretty cinematography of characters contemplating existence/expanses of water.

It is lethargic, fitfully energetic in the third act – and much of that paciness is an illusion of the jazzy score.

Not merely a bore, it's excruciating.

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