The new to school, personally tormented philosophy professor connects with one of his students and finds new meaning for his life in a very unlikely way.
Writer: Woody Allen
Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Joaquin Pheonix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey
Run time/Rating: 95 Minutes/ R
Popcorn Score: Large Popcorn
Joaquin Pheonix plays Abe, a drunken and hopeless philosophy teacher who utters out to his yearning student’s life lessons such as “So much of Philosophy is just verbal masturbation”. Despite arriving at a new university and being wildly respected, he has lost all passion for teaching, his work and life in general. Not even his eccentric but married colleague who has the hots for his great mind and disheveled nature nor his beautiful, eager and also attracted to him, young student can bring him out of his funk. It is not until the opportunity falls in his lap to commit the perfect murder that he is rejuvenated and suddenly has a fresh take on his life.
All of this depression, intermarital affairs and yes, murder equals a comedy, and a brilliant one by none other than Woody Allen. This is the type of throwback movie that I imagine could be transcript from an old Sunday night radio series. It is not the first time Woody has used murder as his focal point. He did so more dramatically with Match Point and along the same ilk of murder/comedy with Manhattan Murder Mystery, but he does it as great as he has done it before revealing clues keeping you at the edge of your which lead to a surprising climax all while keeping you smiling and laughing the whole way. His film is helped out with brilliant performances starting with his leading man. Joaquin plays the depression subtly, he flips a switch and although still mild mannered in his approach, the actor carries himself differently and has a different light radiating from within. It is a treat to watch such a great actor play the subtle difference of a completely changed man. He has tremendous support from the actresses in Parker Posey teaming up with Woody Allen for the first time as well as Allen’s latest favorite young lead Emma Stone who does a perfect job as well.
For me, watching a great story unravel, being presented by brilliant performances under good direction is what going to the theater is all about. Perhaps that is too diluted of a statement but it happens less frequently than one would hope these days.
One final note on why I loved this movie so much, Woody peppers a reemerging score from Ramsey Lewis Trio’s “The In Crowd” throughout which perfectly lays out the fun drama with its smoky jazz room groove.