Greetings and welcome to the annual Woody Allen movie experience. We’ve carefully selected a script, possibly written 15 years ago (selected from one of our many filing cabinets), which we think will ensure your maximum enjoyment. Mind you, even if you are ultimately unhappy with our selection, you’ll be glad to know that the ordeal shouldn’t last longer than 90 minutes. As per usual, the opening credits will be that same white font across a black background, this time sans music. (We do appreciate the value of change.)
This year’s film is titled Irrational Man. We’ve decided to include as much voice-over effect as possible, since we, honestly, weren’t that into this project and didn’t have the energy to flesh out the characters or their scenes together. Handy voice-overs make everything so much easier when you’re trying to meet those pesky deadlines. Also, our regular viewers will be happy to note that our condescension towards women remains strong, as does our aversion to 21st-century technology. We’ll just leave all that high-tech stuff to the kids.
But here are some kids for you to look at, since this movie takes place at a fancy-pants-liberal-arts-college-in-New-England, and one of them kids is played by Emma Stone. She’s so adorable. And she’s going to be hot-to-trot for this glum philosophy professor named Abe, who is played by Joaquin Phoenix with a potbelly. And we know you’ll appreciate how brilliant Abe is, because Emma Stone’s character will remind you over and over again just how brilliant he is in her voice-overs. She will proclaim his brilliance and all the things that make him so brilliant. She will ruminate on how complicated he is and how sad. He feels that all of life is meaningless and there’s no point in carrying on. How Emma Stone’s character wants to save him.
And see Parker Posey? She’s so talented. (She really is.) She will play a science professor (we’re not sure of the specifics, so the generic term will suffice) at the same college at which Abe works and Emma Stone’s character studies. And Parker Posey’s character will want to bone Abe just as much as Emma Stone’s character does, because Abe is so complicated and brilliant and fascinating and broken and needing to be fixed!
And then—a plot twist.
We are not going to reveal any spoilers about the plot twist, because it does actually make the film more interesting, even though Joaquin Phoenix’s character is so fascinating we could just sit and listen to him summarize the great philosophers all day long and that would be movie enough for us. Somebody bring me a spoon so I can dig into this yummy intellectual stuff, because Woody Allen’s Survey of Western Philosophy is truly a revelation.
Also, we’d like to note that our poet of the year is Edna St. Vincent Millay, as she’s the poet Joaquin Phoenix’s character encourages Emma Stone’s character to read more of. (We hope you remember the time Michael Caine told someone—Mia Farrow? We can’t remember—to read more e.e. cummings in Hannah and Her Sisters. Actually I don’t think it was Mia Farrow.)
All right, now that I’ve got that out of my system.
I was disappointed with Irrational Man, but even as I write this sentence, the inner-critic who lives in my head is shaking his or her head and saying derisively, “Ahhh, what did you expect from Woody Allen these days?” I did hope that this one would be better, since the trailer looked so promising, and since I really do love all three of the leads. Joaquin Phoenix is pretty good as the mopey philosophy professor, but Emma Stone’s infatuation with him is a hard sell, unless you buy that she’s one of those fixer-upper girls. But she’s so smart. And she has a really good boyfriend her own age (cruelly named Ron) whom she cruelly mistreats. Her attraction to Abe feels totally forced, and not necessarily because the idea of it is incredulous. It's because Allen doesn’t write enough scenes of the two of them just hanging out and talking, letting their natural onscreen chemistry and individual charms woo us, the viewers, into their romance. Instead, we get repetitive assurances from the narration of Emma Stone that she just loves him and wants him.
And again, Allen’s insistence that men are here to teach women about culture and keep them in their place is truly depressing. When Emma Stone’s character says to him, “I love that you order for me,” I felt like hurling. There is one tiny bit of growth in the Woody Allen character (because I think we can all agree that any lead in a Woody Allen movie that’s a man—and that’s all of them—is Woody Allen, whether it’s played by Woody Allen or not): he tells his college-student-girlfriend: “I like that you disagree with my ideas.” So that’s growth, I guess. Annie Hall probably deserved that much from Alvy Singer. And it only took 40 years.