The title character of Woody Allen’s ‘Irrational Man’ is an unhappy professor of philosophy. His reputation is pretty bad – Abe is said to be a womanizer and an alcoholic (the only woman he can be faithful to is whisky). He had a dream – he wanted to change the world. Since he has become aware of his inability to do it, he has indeed been living in a state of deep nihilism, depression, and arrogant desperation. These three anti-powers have taken away his ability to think and act rationally. Extreme nihilism has turn into dangerous radicalism…
Abe’s sexual life is a disaster – he attracts attractive women, but his depressed body is not able to express its pleasure. Jill, his beautiful student, is impressed with his mind and – what’s more – she seems to be both – absolutely fascinated and worried about his monstrous sadness. Presence and fascination of young girl don’t change Abe’s life. Being loved doesn’t make him more alive, but an exciting vision of moral justification for murder does. One day, in a diner, Abe and Jill overhear a conversation about an anonymous bad guy. That’s how the idea of killing someone to change the world for better comes to Abe’s mind. He becomes obsessed with both – perfect crime and collecting ugly facts about his future victim. He describes his plan as describe as ‘an existential act’ which will allow him to ‘find the will to live’.
Allen seems to refer to the book ‘Philosophy for Dummies’, in which the author, Tom Morris, discovers how to apply ancient wisdom to the everyday life. Unfortunately, he doesn’t propose a refreshingly different guide which would explain philosophical fundamentals and explore some of the strangest and deepest questions ever posed to human beings, but he remains on the position of ‘dummy’ – he is neither original nor eloquent. ‘Irrational Man’ is a pretentious, and what’s even worse – obvious, illustration of some philosophical dilemmas.
Allen’s characters are built as they were embodiments of the philosophical babble. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like an intentional parody, but like a dramaturgical mistake. They are neither funny nor grotesque. The narration of ‘Irrational Man’ seems to be an poor, superficial essay, in which someone is trying to show the affordable vision of philosophy. Even dialogues seems to be written by completely untalented Allen’s double. Nothing to remember or quote (of course if you know Allen well enough to know that philosophy as verbal masturbation, or a story of a man who wanted to be an active world changer and has wound up a passive intellectual who can’t fuck, are not the most alluring stories he has ever made up).