The arrival of Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) as the new philosophy professor in an American college sends a ripple of excitement though the community, particularly amongst the female population. A mildly inebriated, rather disheveled character stumbles onto campus, and immediately wins his pupils over with his frankness and skeptical philosophy. The rugged, romantic Abe soon finds himself pursued by two women: the lonely Rita (Parker Posey), and Jill, a student infatuated with her new professor, who she regards as a long-suffering tormented genius.
Despite this, Abe suffers deeply from a sense of disenchantment and aimlessness. However, he is suddenly transformed when, in a misguided attempt to anonymously help a stranger, he resolves to commit the perfect murder. With a renewed sense of purpose in life, and bolstered by the certainty that he is making a pure and moral decision, Abe concocts and executes his plan flawlessly.
His life, as far as Abe is concerned, has now acquired meaning; he has fulfilled his destiny. Finally finding himself thriving in all areas of life, Abe’s apparently flawless plan suddenly backfires; at this point, Abe realises, one murder could very easily become two…
As an actor known for his brilliance in the role of melancholy and tortured souls, Phoenix is particularly well-cast in his role, ultimately highlighting his talent for comedy as well as drama.
Even if a little repetitive at times, Woody Allen’s Irrational Man explores the fascinating moral conundrum of whether premeditated murder can ever be justified. The upbeat soundtrack and and bright, colourful visual tones of the film offer sharp contrast to the story’s murderous theme. However, it is just this, paired with the film’s wonderfully wicked humour and flippant, lighthearted treatment of a serious issue, that make for a thoroughly entertaining ride.