Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Jamie Blackley, Susan Pourfar, Ben Rosenfield.
THE PLOT: A self-confessed “extremist”, nihilistic – or is it just misanthropic? – philosophy professor Abe (Phoenix) waddles into Braylin College, long past any lust for life, despite his whisphered reputation for being something of a ladies man. It’s a whisper that gets fellow professor Rita (Posey) all hot and calling late at night with a bottle of Abe’s favourite single malt. But Abe has been impotent for over a year, and not even the besotted advances of practically-betrothed student Jill (Stone) can wake him from his sad slumber. It’s only when Abe and Jill overhear a bawling mother on the losing end of a fixed custody battle complain about a cruel judge that Abe suddenly finds a good reason to live. As he plots his own dose of justice, Abe’s lust for life, and for women, is firmly rekindled…
THE VERDICT: Playing like a mute Match Point, Woody is delves deeper into straight drama here, his lust for crimes and misdemeanours having produced some of his finest latter-day films. Then again, it’s hard to define what constitutes a latter-day film when it comes to Woody Allen, given that the little bugger is so darn prolific. One a year. Bejiggers, he makes Neil Young seem positively lackadaisical.
Some of the long-running obsessions remain, such as that old Pygmailion, tragi-comedy magic, with yet another jaded-verging-on-jaundiced professor turning one of his bright young mini-skirted things into a nymphomaniac with every swish of his corduroy hair. Here, at least, the older professor is played by someone under 95, with Allen surrogate Joacquin Phoenix no doubt still capable of lighting a few nerd chick fires, even with such a proud paunch. Stone fits the Allen muse role well, being another cute-as-a-button actress clearly keen to make smart-as-a-whip career choices. Posey is well-cast too. RATING: 4/5