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Joaquinn Phoenix, Emma Stone

Joaquinn Phoenix, Emma Stone

“IRRATIONAL MAN” My rating: C+ 

96 minutes | MPAA rating:R

Even the most devoted Woody Allen fan now approaches his new pictures with caution.

Which Woody will we get this time? The classic comedian who blends big laughs with serious themes? Or the dour dramatist who dishes joyless Scandinavian gloom?

“Irrational Man” falls mostly into the latter category. At its most basic level it is, like 2005’s “Match Point,” a murder drama. This time around, though, the satisfactions are relatively few.

Abe (an excellent Joaquin Phoenix) is an academic superstar and a miserable human being. Revered in philosophy circles, he’s a provocative teacher (“Much of philosophy is verbal masturbation”) and a rather seedy alcoholic who carries a hip flask and isn’t afraid to pull a stiff one while trudging across the quadrangle.

Having burned many bridges, Abe shows up for the summer session at a New England college and immediately draws the attention of two dissimilar women — even though he’s obviously a weary depressive with a substantial middle-age gut.

Abe begins an affair with the vaguely pathetic Rita (Parker Posey), a married colleague in the philosophy department. Initially he’s impotent (“I was hoping it would come back as mysteriously as it left”), but Rita sees that as only a slight handicap, reasoning that after her boring husband “it’s interesting to be around someone complicated.”

Meanwhile Abe launches an intellectual relationship with Jill (Emma Stone), a bright student who clearly idolizes him. Give him points for keeping his relationship with Jill platonic — at least until it isn’t.
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