David Cronenberg has been very hit-or-miss lately. His most recent films haven’t impressed nearly as much as some of his older work, but he still gets points for continuing to try and push experimental cinema, even if the outcome is mostly a bust. Cosmopolis is his latest creation and in it he gets a serviceable, but not career-altering performance out of Robert Pattinson and a few scattered, but memorable performances out of Paul Giamatti and Sarah Gadon. Cosmopolis isn’t a completely unwatchable disaster like most claim it to be, but it is a difficult film to digest and something that might require another viewing or two to really grasp it, but only because of the ineffective way Cronenberg presents the story.
Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is a 28-year-old billionaire that spends most of his day riding around New York City in a futuristic limo that allows him to essentially work on the go. He’s an asset manager and the things that go through his head on any given day are big enough and complex enough to drive a normal person insane. The jargon he talks with his fellow riders (Jay Baruchel) is far from understandable and mostly over-complicated to help convey importance, but it still makes for interesting chatter.
His one and only plan for the day is to get a haircut and somehow that quick ride across town turns into a mental and physical journey for the audience as we watch Cronenberg attempt to sculpt a masterpiece on film. Cosmopolis is such a tough cookie to crack, because the film isn’t all bad. It’s not nearly as intellectually challenging as it thinks it is, but it gets by on more than its fancy car and slick-suited performances by Pattinson, Baruchel and the occasionally lengthy scene featuring Kevin Durand or Paul Giamatti.
Cosmopolis might lose some viewers during the opening minutes, but those that tough through it and stick along for the ride might find something that’s slightly amusing. David Cronenberg chisels away at layers upon layers of deeper meaning and thoughtful conversation, but he does it in such a boring manner. Never in my life have I witness performances come out so lifeless and dull.
Robert Pattinson (of the Twilight fame) takes what could have been a career-changing performance and simply reads it with a flavorless approach and a lack of understanding. I don’t completely blame Pattinson, because he doesn’t seem to be the only one lost in Cronenberg’s rabbit hole. Most of the negativity comes crashing down on Pattinson, because he’s the lead and because you’re forced to spend two hours primarily with him alone. Pattinson’s got the chops of an up-and-comer, but this was clearly the wrong breakout choice for him and I hope his experience on this film doesn’t make him too hesitant when picking his next indie project.
Kevin Durand, Sarah Gadon and Jay Baruchel are the second-level batch of clueless actors that seem to be just as puzzled as Pattinson. Durand gets by a little better, because most of his scenes consist of a couple words of dialogue, but Gadon and Baruchel never manage to shake that expression of complete and utter confusion from their faces. Gadon’s mostly annoyed while confused, but Baruchel is clearly having difficulty trying to fit into Cronenberg’s monotone world.
Paul Giamatti comes in just before the film calls it quits and thankfully so, because his back and forth with Pattinson feels like a scene from an entirely different a movie – a movie that’s much more interesting, full of tension and actual sparks of chemistry. Giamatti and Pattinson reveal slightly what I believe Cronenberg was really trying to get at. The rest of Cosmopolis is void of any real driving purpose.
Cosmopolis is a think piece that is soaked with subtext. I don’t dislike the film because it’s uneasy to sit through or too hard to follow, but I do think Cronenberg makes some mistakes in the way he presents the characters and the scenes in which dialogue falls on deaf ears. It’s artistically flawed, but still sort of interesting and worth a watch, even if only for the surface level stuff. I’d like to think that with multiple viewings Cosmopolis might just become one of Cronenberg’s most thought-provoking films yet, but the more I think about it the more I get mad at just how little of impact it makes in the grand scheme of it all.
Cosmopolis – 6.5/10