The film tells the story of a small-town philosophy professor Abe Lucas (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who is suffering from an existential funk. Thankfully, his life is given new purpose once he begins a relationship with one of his students, Emma Stone, who plays a character whose name is yet to be revealed.
The trailer starts off with faculty members joking that Lucas will be like “Viagara for the University’s philosophy department.” Later, we find that Lucas is actually having “performance” issues, as he spirals deeper into depression and alcohol. Judging by the first few scenes, the film seems at first to be another by-the-numbers tale about an aging white guy who has a mental breakdown, only to find true meaning in a younger companion. However, then the story seems to break left, as Abe has a sort of awakening.
Frankly, it’s hard to tell what sort of relationship Lucas and Stone’s character have. The trailer shows them getting closer and closer while Lucas is down, and then pulling apart after his new-found zest for life appears. Then there’s his affair with a different woman (played by Parker Posey), who says he brought out the caveman in the bedroom. Where did this transformation come from? Why is Lucas playing Russian roulette at a party? And where are we being led by the film’s many inner monologues?
It often pays for a director to be a little vague about plot points in a trailer to lead the audience in. Still, the whimsical nature of the trailer and the enigmatic characters certainly give many more questions than answers here. Luckily, this is Woody Allen, so even if the film fails to lead us to a definitive truth, we can be confident in a character-driven journey that is entertaining, if not always satisfying when it comes to wrapping up the storyline with a nice bow. Anyone who saw the acclaimed director’s 2013 beauty Blue Jasmine can relate to that.
Irrational Man will be the 51st of Allen’s illustrious career and along with Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, the film costars Parker Posey, Ben Rosenfield, Ethan Phillip and Jamie Blackley. It will be released in theaters July 24, 2015.
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