COSMOPOLIS – The Review
“You have an asymmetrical prostate”, a doctor intones after examining natty billionaire fund manager Eric Packer in David Cronenberg’s newest film COSMOPOLIS. The peculiar thing about this declaration is that Packer is in his stretch limousine when the doctor’s fingers are in his rectum, and that he’s played by Robert Pattinson in a role that may be a tough sell to his legion of puzzled TWILIGHT devotees. This adaptation of Don DeLillo’s satirical novel mostly takes place in that limo, a travelling vessel which provides all ofÂ Packer’s needs: computer access, food, vodka, sex, even a toilet. COSMOPOLIS is a kinky and provocative portrait of loneliness and alienation in a wealthy corporate world where words like loyalty and love have lost all meaning. . Not for everyone, COSMOPOLIS is a challenging and dense movie but also self-indulgent, plotless, and for most moviegoers it will likely be a chore to sit through.
The setting is a slightly futuristic Manhattan. Eric Packer is a late-twentyish financial “master-of-the-universe” who seems bored with his existence, though he has a gorgeous wife (Sarah Gaddon) and a couple of smoky mistresses (including Juliette Binoche – super sexy!), all of whom he seems to care little about. As he’s chauffeured across town by his devoted driver (Kevin Durand), ostensibly to get a haircut, he has to navigate a presidential visit, an attack by rat-wielding antiglobalization anarchists, and a rapper’s funeral. Eric seems more focused on the yen’s exchange rate, worried it may be destroying his portfolio, than the mysterious stalker (Paul Giamatti) determined to murder him.
It’s been a while since David Cronenberg has tackled this sort of weird, abstract material, which should be cause for celebration, but with COSMOPOLIS, the cult director dissapoints. Most of COSMOPOLIS consists of conversations between Eric and the individuals who report to him. Over half of the film takes place in the back of the limo, occasionally exiting for a meal or a murder. They talk and talk but there’s little emotion or message in the conversations, mostly faux-intellectual platitudes and half-baked philosophy, much of it stilted and absurd. While Eric seemed to find the obvious sociological observations about the intersection of commerce and technology changing the world profound, this viewer just looked at his watch and was bored.
There is a stellar performance by Robert Pattinson at the center of COSMOPOLIS. Eric, who for all his smug ruthlessness, is also the film’s conscience and Pattinson, not the most expressive performer, plays Packer with a dead-inside charm and mild hysteria that’s perfect for the character. You have to admire the actor for tackling the challenge (Colin Farrell had first been cast but had to drop out), as his career has been relatively short and highlighted only by his carrying of the TWILIGHT films (faint praise). He gives the part a distinctive deadpan spin and this could cement his status as a serious actor. Howard Shore’s low-key soundtrack perfectly matches the mood of the film and Cronenberg’s spellbinding visual style is often apparent but, despite a few jolts of excitement, COSMOPOLIS is, like its protagonist’s journey, a long ride that doesn’t get very far.
2 of 5 Stars
COSMOPOLIS opens in St. Louis today at Landmark’s Tivoli Theater