Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Jamie Blackley
Abe Lucas (Phoenix) is a maudlin, alcoholic, borderline-nihilist philosophy professor newly appointed to a Rhode Island college. Preceded by tales of notoriety and philandering, his arrival on campus incites the attention of two rather disparate love interests; married Science professor Rita (Posey) and ingenuous student Jill (Stone). Distracted by his depressive cynicism, Lucas does little more than concede to their attentions until overhearing a chance diner-booth conversation. In a swift diametric to earlier narrative musings, he decides that he has one clear purpose, the achievement of which will give his life a rich depth of meaning previously lacking, and begins to plot a murder.
Although Phoenix and Stone undoubtedly deliver, Posey is the standout performance as Rita, throwing herself at Abe with an impressive mix of confidence, candour and desperation (“you’re not going to send me back out into the rain without sleeping with me, are you?”). Darius Khondiji’s luminous cinematography and the repeated cadence of jazz track ‘The In Crowd’ (Ramsey Lewis Trio) offer a sunny contrast to the darker events unfolding onscreen. For fans of Allen’s extensive back catalogue it is an entertaining watch, although certain elements may seem so familiar as to become predictable. Eventually, Allen (now 79 and you expect, considering his own mortality more than ever before, an issue that he claims has troubled him since age 5) leaves us with the bleak thought that despite our intentions – bad or good – there is nothing any of us can do to escape the seemingly random hand of fate.
Originally published in Crack Magazine