Review: 'Cosmopolis', starring Robert Pattinson
You want to know what the best part of Cosmopolis turned out to be? It's the thought of all those Robert Pattinson fans, who may have a passing familiarity with David Cronenberg(he did that Keira Knightley sex movie, right?), racing to the theater to see this and walking out totally dumbfounded. What sort of Pattinson is this? Where are his fangs? What the heck did we just witness? What in the world was everybody talking about?
The irony being that Pattinson is equally stiff in and emotionless in almost everything he's in, only it's taken to the nth degree in Cosmopolis, Cronenberg's adaptation of Don DeLillo's overrated 2003 novel and exploration of the corrupting power of extreme wealth. The book is more interesting than good, a faint praise that the film adaptation doesn't come close to achieving. It's little more than a boring slog full of long-winded conversations with characters so detached from reality they don't even seem interesting in hearing themselves speak. So why should we?
Pattinson deserves credit for not falling back on his Twilight fame, choosing instead to pursue projects that will help build him into a better actor. Cosmopolis is not one of those movies. He play 28-year old hotshot billionaire wunderkind, Eric Packer, who embarks on a journey in his souped up limousine to get a haircut. He makes this seemingly innocent decision on the worst possible day, when the President is in town and the New York City(it's actually Toronto) streets packed to bursting with traffic. Right away it's clear this is going to be one long, impenetrable film as Eric and his bodyguard(an excellent Kevin Durand) discuss the plans for the day:
Eric: "We need a haircut".
Bodyguard: “We’ll hit traffic that speaks in quarter inches.”
Yeah, it's one of those movies where nobody speaks in any way that sounds natural, which is a real shame because the subject matter could have been interesting if done in a more traditional approach. Eric is an obsessive about a number of things. He's obsessed with his own mortality, often ruminating on the idea of death. He gets a daily physical exam in order to make sure he's 100% healthy, but finds a new thing to obsess over when he learns his prostate is asymmetrical. He's obsessed with the value of the Chinese yuan(in the book it's the Japanese yen), and he's also stuck on the idea of having sex with his new wife(Sarah Gadon). They meet occasionally for flat conversations that go nowhere, which is probably the point.
Cronenberg transports the film closer to the present day, where the current financial crisis can add some added texture to the story. Eric is losing hundreds of millions of dollars in a complicated gamble, and he's also become the target for anti-corporate protesters who hate his fiscal recklessness while the world suffers. One of these protesters(Paul Giamatti) may be planning an assassination attempt, which has the security detail on extra high alert.
If there's a high point, it's in Eric's desperate attempts to break the daily monotony his life has become. His attempt to get a haircut is consistently frustrated by new obstacles, while his Odyssean journey is briefly interrupted by obtuse discussions on wealth and technology. Juliette Binoche, who seems to have embraced her more sultry side lately(watch her in Elles to see my point), plays an art dealer he has sex with on the side. She's one of the few who'll openly question him, and she balks at his frivolous desire to buy the Rothko Chapel.
The film really hinges on Pattinson as he's in every single frame, and while he tries hard, he simply doesn't bring enough to make an anti-hero like Eric interesting. Cosmopolis thinks it has a lot of big ideas, and maybe somewhere buried deep it does, but it's too pretentious and self-important to let us in on it.