Whatever Joaquin Phoenix is doing, it's working. His threat to walk away from movies and instead concentrate on rapping is so preposterous that at least half of his fanbase is convinced it's a joke or publicity stunt. If it's the latter, then it appears to be having a positive effect on critics, who seem to want to send him out on a congratulatory note. Two Lovers may be (depending on whether you believe him) his last film, and if it is, then his desire to leave the industry is a little more understandable.
It's not that Lovers is awful, it's just that it's okay—and okay doesn't, or shouldn't, suffice anymore. Phoenix plays Leonard, a dumpy, suicidal guy living in New Jersey with his parents. The cause of his depression sounds like a lie: His ex-fiancée dumped him when their blood tests came back virtually guaranteeing that they would never be able to have natural children that would survive more than a few months. Leonard's got plenty of women in his life, however, like Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), the cute family friend who desperately, if inexplicably, loves him, and Michelle (a too-old Gwyneth Paltrow), his upstairs neighbor whose bad habits include pills and married men, and who he shamelessly lusts after.
It's hard to figure out what we're supposed to connect with here: The story is pretty basic (think Archie, Betty, and Veronica) and Phoenix's character is unlikeable and impossible to grasp. Both pathetic and manipulative, one minute he's jumping into the river and the next he's furiously breakdancing at a club (and rapping, actually—badly and briefly). The women, too, are uninspiring. Sandra is kind but doesn't stand up for herself, and Michelle is fickle and needy. So... maybe we should see how Joaquin does on the mic after all?