What You Need To Know:
This mystery drama isn’t for the faint of heart. It contains some disturbing sequences involving attempted suicide, sex with very young women and a brutal cold-blooded attempted murder scene. The existentialist, humanist worldviews of the main character are a strong danger to Christian hearts. The idea that man is completely free of all authority but his own, he being the only free agent who contributes to his fate, is incompatible with Christian faith and theology. IRRATIONAL MAN is entertaining and well made, with an ironic twist where the villain seems to get his comeuppance. However, the twist doesn’t go far enough to redeem the main character’s abhorrent existentialist, humanist worldview and immoral behavior. Ultimately, IRRATIONAL MAN is unacceptable viewing.
(HHH, B, FR, RoRo, PaPa, Ab, Co, So, LL, VV, S, AA, MM) Very strong humanist worldview based on the existential belief that people are the masters over their destiny and choices, with an ironic twist at the end where Fate seems to intervene and a villain seems to get his comeuppance, combined with some Romantic, pagan elements where a man’s life and choices are completely controlled by his romantic relationships and lusts, plus man makes an Anti-Christian comment along with some light communist, socialist elements; 19 obscenities and profanities; one murder by poison, and another attempted murder involving a disturbing struggle between a man and young woman; three implied sex scenes one being with a very young woman and the others with a married woman; no explicit nudity, but implied nudity under bed sheets after implied sex scenes; alcoholic protagonist includes constant intense alcohol use by clinically depressed characters in inappropriate places such as while driving; no smoking or illegal drugs; and, strong miscellaneous immorality where a man justifies murder because of his out of control moral relativism and sexual control over women in relationships, but he meets an ironic end.
IRRATIONAL MAN is the latest movie written and directed by Woody Allen. It follows an aging philosophy professor named Abe (Joaquin Phoenix) trying to find a meaning and purpose for his life and a young college student, Jill (Emma Stone), as their lives cross paths, and they fall in love.
Abe is an alcoholic nihilist, with no will to live who survives one drink and sexual encounter to the next. Jill is a beautiful, young woman with a bright future ahead of her who, sadly, becomes involved in a relationship with Abe, her new philosophy professor, as she becomes intrigued with his personality. Abe himself is new to the university and is having an existential crisis before falling in love with Jill. However, he then finds a new purpose in life by anonymously killing a local judge, who is a poor father and husband, when Abe overhears a conversation in a diner.
IRRATIONAL MAN is disturbing, even with the ironic twist at the end. It’s centered on Allen’s classic “existentialist,” atheist philosophy, or the “philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.” Thus, Abe finds meaning and purpose in life through pre-meditated murder and sexual intercourse with a much younger woman. This, of course, is by no means inspiring, to say the least. Practically any viewer, regardless of their religious worldview, will cringe when they watch Abe control Jill through his platitudinal philosophies and sexual personality. At one point in the movie, Abe justifies his act of murder according to his own demented moral relativist standards.
Joaquin Phoenix has been able to build a name for himself most recently with roles that involve an authoritative scoundrel in movies such as INHERENT VICE, THE IMMIGRANT and THE MASTER. One can only hope that he doesn’t end up typecasting himself into this character as he does in IRRATIONAL MAN. Allen is known for projecting himself into his lead male roles, and one hopes that the creepy “Abe” character is not how Allen wants to be remembered.
A Christian must be vigilant when defending his or her heart from negative content and worldviews. Therefore, the moral relativist and humanist worldview of IRRATIONAL MAN is a threat to any Christian, especially children and teenagers, but also young adults. One should not even think of bringing a child to see this film. Profanity and obscenities abound, in stark contrast to Allen’s latest films MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. Also, there’s a direct insult to “Christians” that escapes from Abe’s mouth.
In the movie, Abe is always drinking hard liquor from a flask, whether he be walking around campus or driving a car! Abe brings Jill out on a date that involves martinis. He also has an affair with a fellow professor, Rita (Parker Posey), who continually brings hard liquor over to Abe’s house to drink before cheating on her husband with him.
Adultery is a key theme in IRRATIONAL MAN. Besides the other professor, Rita, cheating on her husband with Abe, the young Jill also cheats on her boyfriend, Roy (Jamie Blackley), with Abe. Roy is painted out to be a moral and clean-cut, but precious, boyfriend that Jill absolutely takes advantage of through her promiscuity with Abe. The audience can’t help but feel bad for Roy and Rita’s husband as their spouses continue to sleep with Abe, a depraved man. While no explicit sex is portrayed, it’s implied with bedroom conversations and implied nudity under bedsheets.
Ironically, the movie ends by teaching Jill a “lesson you can’t get from any textbook.” This may lead viewers to believe Allen is against Abe’s philosophy, but the buildup feels like a rollercoaster depiction of revolting ‘morals’ and existential philosophies that media-wise viewers, especially Christians will want to avoid.
That said, IRRATIONAL MAN is well made and undoubtedly interesting. It’s a shame, however, that the despicable beliefs and behavior depicted probably will distract viewers from a captivating plot and some solid character development. Allen’s take on the heist or murder plotline is intriguing to say the least. Hopefully, he can expand on this in the future with cleaner content.
Ultimately, IRRATIONAL MAN is unacceptable viewing. The ironic twist doesn’t go far enough to redeem this movie. It could have done so, however, if only the movie had made some stronger moral points about the protagonist’s false, immoral worldview and behavior.