The title is a book by William Barrett, which acts as a general guide to existentialism. With the powerhouse of Woody Allen behind the film, I had high hopes.
I was waiting for great lines, the kind of quotes I would like to share on Facebook or write them on my real walls. Then I hoped for a Hollywoodian end to my main character’s boredom, but unfortunately I couldn’t even believe the love story; it lacked magic.
So cliche has infiltrated, it came across a bit Film Noir in the way characters are trying to contemplate their life through emotional or moral logic. A bored wife Rita (Parker Posey) who is looking for someone to save her and a teenage student Jill (Emma Stone) who is looking for herself. Both are interested in the philosophy teacher Abe, played by Joaquin Phoenix, long before they meet due to his publications.
After being introduced they begin looking at ways to save him, while slowly falling for him.
Imagine the depressed, drunk version of Don Juan who talks in Heidegger quotes, smelling like vodka, in his Zabriskie point. What saves the teacher is the idea of murdering someone who has hurt someone else in turn, a murder of revenge that hasn’t been committed by anyone affected.
Even if the victim is a stranger, he still feels this is the opportunity that fate gave him to make justice in this unfair universe. The universe that took his wife away from him and the universe that is so blatant and harsh. Why he puts it on fate is because of how he was introduced to the situation, which is merely sitting down at a table with his favourite student whom he doesn’t want to hurt deliberately. Fate is what happens and existentialism is what you do with it.
Just like philosophy, the perfect crime is good in theory, because eventually police finds someone else guilty, point where things change again. If the movie ended with him committing the crime, without trying to also kill the girl, I would have asked myself serious questions, I could have gone as far as saying that I understand the character, the way his mind worked. I could see how this was his fatalist way to re-balance the universe becomes the ultimate existentialist act.
Stone has built her character in a way that makes it too obvious that she knew the script beforehand. The character’s confidence throughout the film was a spoiler for their connection as I always felt that something will happen between them, which it did. Come on, Woody, convince me this story is just platonic.
There was no magic either. The idea that he was feeling happy again and positive just because he was thinking about murdering someone gets me back to an old conclusion: in order to know someone for real you would need to know the reason for their actions, not their actions.
Ironically, the object that saves her from death is the lantern she chose as a prize he won for her earlier by picking a number at random.
We have freedom and we are responsible for our choices, but eventually fate comes in, so how much is what we decide and how much is what is decided?