Irrational Man

(USA 2015)

Woody Allen movies never totally suck, but they’re either really great or just ok. Irrational Man is the latter. Joaquin Phoenix is Abe, an angsty, drunkard philosophy professor who’s lost his zest for life. He takes a teaching position at a college in Rhode Island. All the fly women are making a fuss (even though he’s gross) but he can’t get it up. With a plot twist that I didn’t see coming, he gets his groove back– until things start to unravel.

Irrational Man makes an interesting comment on freedom: act or leave things to chance. There are a few bright moments here– the Russian roulette party scene, for example, had me on the edge of my seat for a second. It’s also nice to see Parker Posey and Emma Stone in action even if I’ve seen them do better. The problem here is, the execution is bland; the story plods along without ever taking off. Even the final scene plays out in a blasé manner. Intentionally existentialist or not, Irrational Man is a yawn.

(Gene Siskel Film Center) C-

Inherent Vice

(USA 2015)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice is a total stoner flick. It’s loaded with amusing moments and notable actors—Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Maya Rudolph, and Martin Short to name a few—having fun with their parts. It’s an entertaining farce—entertaining only to a point, that is.

Unfortunately, the plot meanders with spurts of energy and dead stops, and ultimately fails to go as far as maybe it hoped. The running time—two and a half hours!—does not help. I found myself underwhelmed, though I certainly didn’t hate it. Inherent Vice lost me before it got to the end. I’ve never read anything by Thomas Pynchon, and I’m in no hurry to after seeing this.

With Joanna Newsom, Katherine Waterston, Jordan Christian Hearn, Taylor Bonin, Jeannie Berlin, Eric Roberts, Serena Scott Thomas, Martin Dew, Michael Kenneth Williams, Hong Chau, Shannon Collis, Christopher Allen Nelson, Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Haena Kim, Jena Malone, Vivienne Khaledi, Yvette Yates, Andrew Simpson

148 minutes
Rated R

(Landmark Century) C-