Cannes Film Festival: At Cannes, Woody Allen and Gus Van Sant get morbid, with mixed results

11:30 a.m. “I couldn’t resist doing a crazy thing.” A slacker cousin to Crimes And Misdemeanors and Match Point, Woody Allen’s loose Dostoevsky riff Irrational Man (Grade: C+) stars Joaquin Phoenix as a philosophy professor who gets a new lease on life while planning and executing a perfect murder. It has problems familiar from much of the director’s later output—namely, it feels like a first-draft script performed by an undirected cast—and suffers more than usual from Allen’s inability to write grown-up intellectual dialogue, but almost gets by on narrative misdirection and Phoenix’s off-beat performance.

Sporting an impressive potbelly, Phoenix plays Professor Abe Lucas as a Brando hybrid, which kills Allen’s rhythm, but makes the character more credibly vulnerable and likable, setting him apart from the run-of-the-mill Allen impressionists. There are some okay one-liners (“Romantics think suicide is romantic,” “He …

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