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Mr. Holmes and Irrational Man

Pervasive Minions and other superheroes aren’t the only reason to head to movie houses this summer. Happily programmers and producers have discovered a year round audience for the so called “art-house” or smaller, perhaps independently produced film. A few opening gamely against the blockbusting big buckers deserve attention.

Like Mr. Holmes, Bill Condon’s handsome and evocative spin on the Sherlock Holmes story. Based not on the traditional kind of Baker Street mysteries Holmes solved, this very human tale does involve some puzzling, as Holmes, now an aging retiree, tries to remember why he gave up his career some twenty years ago. Tended to by a wary housekeeper (the always wonderful Laura Linney) and her impressionable young son, Holmes becomes a heart rendering and inspiring character for the ages. But it’s Ian McKellen who, in a brilliant turn, makes this class act one that should be remembered at awards season. In great company and greater surroundings, you still just can’t take your eyes (or heart) off of him.

And then there’s Woody Allen’s Irrational Man, an okay piece buffed up by its pedigree. Has Woody worn me down, getting me to (almost) shrug my shoulders at this latest spin on a romance between an older man and younger woman? At least this time, the conceit involves a burned and bummed out philosophy professor and his ambitious student, territory that’s not earth shattering. And while Emma Stone certainly seems more sure footed here than she has in her last few films (the unfortunate Magic in the Moonlight and we won’t even talk about Aloha), what pleasure there is here comes from Joaquin Phoenix’s amoral philosopher and the delightful Parker Posey, dandy as the adult woman who might have actually been the better choice for our alluring anti-hero.

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