Dark comedy that refuses to acknowledge what it is can work well. In this case, however, it is a little mixed in its result.
The women are strong. Emma Stone (Aloha) is wonderfully accessible in this story, playing the young, starry-eyed co-ed well. The script leaves her hanging for motivations at times, but the story itself is fairly tight. Parker Posey is a wonderfully tragic depiction of a wife looking for something more, but afraid to go out and get it alone.
On the other hand, Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice) plays his part well enough, but lacks charisma and is neither intriguing nor tragic enough to own the story. As a philosophy professor who has succumbed to existential angst, he could have been rather funny, but that isn’t the story being told here. His clawing back from the abyss, and the justifications for his choices are a nice bit of mental chess, but that works better for a short subject or an art exhibit than it does for a full-length film.
It is the construction of the tale, and its ending, that leave me thinking this was a great idea that Woody Allen (Magic in the Moonlight) just didn’t quite know how to deliver past the initial concept. It moves along fine, but it isn’t completely engaging and the framework is broken logically. It has the dry wit Allen is so good at, but it ultimately falls apart. Come to this for the individuals involved or because you are a dedicated Allen complete-ist, but otherwise, probably not worth the time.