His limo is tricked out and state-of-the-art. It's basically his own little microcosm he seals himself in to avoid the dregs of society outside. The story is rather surreal in tone, and feels otherworldly. Oddly though, it feels timely too, as some of the stuff Eric encounters parallel real world events. It seems odd that it would take him all day to get to his preferred barber, but the traffic jams he's caught in are the result of a presidential visit, the funeral procession of his favorite musician ( a Sufi rap artist), and anti-capitalist demonstrations by an Occupy-style group.
Along the way, besides encountering said traffic slowing obstacles, Eric also conducts business in his limo, including trysts with a few women, a meeting with his new, albeit frigid and bored wife, meetings with co-workers and, a prostate exam with odd results. He also sees his business dealings falter, and learns someone is apparently out to assassinate him.
This is all very troubling stuff, but he seems to be rather uncaring, if not welcoming of this ruin. The film concludes with a lengthy confrontation with the apparent assassin, highlighted by a very lengthy philosophical discussion.
This seems like pretty perfect material for writer/director David Cronenberg. It's odd, thought provoking, and a real head trip at times. Unfortunately, it's also largely dull, if not really boring, ends anti-anticlimactically, and feels really under cooked, which makes sense given that Cronenberg wrote the script in like 6 days. It at least is shot well, looks great, and tries to do something meaningful, even if it falls short.
I applaud Robert Pattinson for trying something different and ambitious, but I don't think this'll quite help him shed the long shadow cast by Twilight. He's backed by some interesting supporting players like Jay Baruchel, Mathieu Amalric, Samantha Morton, Juliette Binoche, and Paul Giamatti, but none of them really do anything spectacular or groundbreaking.
I wanted to like this. It seemed like it would be really intense and gripping, and, while it does have its moments, it goes on for way too long, and proves to be largely 'meh' more than anything else.
I would have to say that enjoying this movie depends completely on your ability to understand Robert Pattinson's character. If you can't, it's going to be hard to like this film. Cosmopolis is a movie of immense potential and incredible setup. What it lacks in though are the things that make movies easy to watch and get into. I was fully engaged the whole film because the thin plot had a lot of great ideas and philosophical meanings behind them, but it was missing everything from dialogue that sounded real to actors that seemed real. The only saving grace as far as acting goes was Paul Giamatti's scene at the end of the movie. Everyone else was dull and boring, as was the dialogue that was coming from their mouths.
Cosmopolis follows a rich, young man who we assume works on Wall Street. The economy is beginning to collapse and all around the city are protestors who want blood. They want Eric Packers blood too. He is constantly being updated by his bodyguard of the impending situation. Eric doesn't seem at all fazed by it though, as he drifts around the city in his limousine, talking with other people, and just trying to make it to get his haircut. Like I said, the plot is thin. There's not much in the way of action either, as it is mostly weird, dull dialogue.
Cronenberg is still one of those directors that I fail to understand. As with Lynch, I love his ideas and I like his complete dedication to his projects, but he fails to present it in an interesting way at times. This wad the case here with Cosmopolis. It's not completely his fault though, as Pattinson made his character almost impossible to listen to, with a soft, boring voice and so little emotion, I wondered if he was alive at times when he wasn't talking.
This isn't something I liked, but I do have a certain respect for it. It has a feel all its own, as every Cronenberg film does. The cinematography is extremely well done and the movie is obviously made with the intent to make the audience think. It did manage to do that, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized; I didn't like what I was watching.
Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is a mega-millionaire currency trader. He's got so much money he wants to outrightly buy a church just because. We travel with Eric over the course of one day as he travels through New York City in his stretch limo. Along the way, he hosts a colorful array of characters and fears that his high-stakes wagers will be adding up. He becomes more and more self-destructive and looks for new and exciting ways to waste money, talent, and time.
I hesitate to even use the term film with Cosmopolis because it's truly more of an endurance test in didactic, pretentious art house masturbation. The script is really a collection of self-indulgent scenes with very little to connect anything together. Each new scene feels like the movie is starting over. Worse, the dialogue is painfully elliptical, stilted, and monotone, reeking of pseudo intellectual intent, lingering in ambiguity like it's poetic. It's not, it's irritating and obtuse and character talk in circles without ever really saying anything. It's the kind of dialogue that reminds me of a pompous student play, something where the particulars involved think they're making Artistically Daring Statements about Things That Matter. It's such a mannered way of speaking, so labored in its affectations and superficially drawn to the mistaken belief that obtuse and redundant equals philosophical and thought provoking. The only thoughts I was thinking were of the murderous variety. I felt so pained that I had to check the time and only eleven minutes had passed. It felt like I had spent three times that amount. I stuck it out for you, dear reader, but otherwise I would have bailed. Here are a handful of dialogue samples to give you an idea:
"Why do they call them airports?"
"I have an asymmetrical prostate. What does that mean?"
"Try putting a stick of gum in your mouth and not chew it."
"Where do limos go to spend the night?"
I feel like I'm even doing a disservice to calling the people onscreen as characters. They?re really more just talking heads, mouthpieces for cluttered ideology. The plot introduces new characters but they only last for a scene and then it's time for someone knew. This would be acceptable if it ever appeared that these interactions had any effect, positive or negative, on our protagonist. As it stands, it's just a gloomy guy running into one meaningless encounter after another. Oh, and if that was the point of the whole exercise, then shoot me now. I literally cheered when the movie was over. Well, right after incredulously barking, "That's it?"
Plot is another term, much like characters, that has next to no meaning for Cosmopolis. The plot is a wealthy guy who wants to get a haircut. Yes, that is the inciting incident. He stays in his limo as it slowly drifts down the bumper-to-bumper New York City traffic. He has encounters with people, sure, but mostly it's the story of one man in his pursuit of a haircut. And you know what dear reader, spoilers be damned, but he gets that haircut too. The final half hour of the movie, almost a third of the whole running time, is spent with Paul Giamatti, an intense and angry man who wants to kill Eric. At least Giamatti's performance kept me awake. The plot, much like the characters, is really a vehicle for the script's ideas, so it becomes exasperating when the movie tries to pretend, at points, like now all of a sudden we should care about Eric and his journey. The ideas, as presented, are either on-the-nose or impenetrable. For every confusing conversation about death, you'll get a capitalism = rats metaphor.
Pattinson (Breaking Dawn Part 2) seems like an apt choice as well as a craven marketing ploy for Cronenberg to get his weird arty movie greater exposure and financing. Pattinson gives a rather cold and detached performance, which I'm sure is also the point but it's not exactly an outlet to showcase any potential range. I'm sure Pattinson leaped at the chance to work with Cronenberg, but he should have checked out his emotionally vacant character first. Oh I get it that Eric is a guy who seemingly has it all but now feels empty, and I get how it's meant to be an analogue for the Wall Street set that?s hijacked our capitalism markets (rats!). I get it. It's just lousy, and Pattinson could have been replaced with just about any young Hollywood hunk. The only enjoyable aspect of this whole movie, and this is simply a theoretical extension, is that plenty of diehard Twilight fans are going to watch this movie and be very very confused.
Cronenberg keeps us locked in that limo, at least for the first half of the film. We get to watch Eric host an array of guests. He gets serviced by a middle-aged woman (Juliette Binoche). He gets a prostate exam while conducting a meeting. He gets up-to-the-minute reports on the millions of dollars he?s hemorrhaging, and he doesn't care. Money has lost all known value when everything is given to you. Look, I can make vague, self-important statements too. I'll credit Cronenberg with finding creative ways to play around within the confined space of the limo, making the film less hermetic than it by all means should be. However, bad green screen effect work really proves distracting, so that you're given another reason to check out when characters drone on as they do.
Strictly put, this was not a story that needed to be turned into a movie. I'm sure DeLillo's novella has its own weight and power, but the big-screen adaptation of Cosmopolis is all flaccid pontification, empty verbal masturbation, and crushing dead weight. It was a Herculean effort for me to watch this meandering movie to the end and I know I can't be alone in this regard. If only the characters were really characters, or the plot had any minute sense of momentum, or that the dialogue was less purposely obtuse, or if the movie felt like it was at least going somewhere or had some small recognizable shred of purpose. I won't go as far to say you should be worried if any of your friends gush to you about how great this movie is, but you should probably keep an eye on them or see if they bumped their head. This movie is more like an insufferable lecture by the most boring people who confuse cerebral with impenetrable. If you're not going to supply me any significant means of entry to engage with your art, then I'll just go play with somebody else. Cosmopolis feels like the worst and most pretentious student film you'll ever see. The rub is that a great director like Cronenberg made it.
Nate's Grade: D
Not a great movie!vUltimately, I understand that Cronenberg tries to make a lot of statements here but unfortunately, the message doesn't get across. It's the kind of movie that drags on and on, but doesn't accomplish a single thing.
Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager's day devolves into an odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart.
Every scene is directed the same way. Two actors sit across from each other and have a conversation. The camera almost never moves; the actors almost never move. It is inert and monotonous.
This kind of material would normally be right up my alley. I loved Cronenberg's 'Naked Lunch' and 'Crash,' which were also based on avant-garde novels. I find De Lillo a very interesting writer and was very excited when I heard Cronenberg was going to take him on. If this film can't even reach its target audience (me), then I'm sure it will disappear very quickly.
I don't know what's going on with Cronenberg today. His last film, "A Dangerous Method," was pretty dull. And he follows that up with this crushingly lifeless piece of work, which it seems he directed in his sleep. Yikes.
Cosmopolis addresses some interesting ideas such as the reasoning behind money and capitalism, and my personal favorite: the notion of destruction being a form of creativity. The performances here are strange: a lot of the lines seem like they were read off of paper and some of the actors sound monotone. I got used to this after a while, since the world in which we see in Cosmopolis is different and strange to begin with. Even some of the plot comes out of nowhere and goes completely unexplained. Although the ending was confusing, it was ambiguous and left me thinking, so it gets a whole lot of credit for doing something different. This is unconventional filmmaking in a bit sloppy, albeit good form.
So it is with a heavy heart that I report that COSMOPOLIS is a torturous experience. Intentionally arch and mannered, we basically follow a 1 Percenter (a fascinating performance from Robert Pattinson nonetheless) as he rides in his limo through an increasingly hellish Manhattan. Facing everything from sex to riots to assassins, it's HEART OF DARKNESS WITH A MINIBAR AND A TON OF REARSCREEN PROJECTION. The artifice is a device which grows numbingly repetitive as things go along. Imagine SIN CITY without action or drive. We lurch from one overly-intellectualized conversation to the next about the failing economy, Wall Street trading, foreign, currency exchange, and sex. It's nihilistic and not a little boring. Every now and then, a scene takes fire, such as the one with Juliette Binoche rolling around on the limo floor post-sex as she discusses, of all things, Rothko paintings. It's all so random and diffuse...and just BORING. Did I mention it was boring?
There are a few moments of random violence, because, well, it wouldn't be Cronenberg without a little right? I think this would make a provocative play at some Equity Waiver 99-seater in Silver Lake, but beyond that, who would want to watch this? Oh, and just to evoke the repetitive nature of the film, I'll say it one last time. This movie is BORING.
A character so lacking individuality like Eric Packer is perhaps the perfect role for a limited actor like Robert Pattinson. Surprisingly, as the movie cruises along with its own idiosyncratic rhythm and pacing, that does not become a liability, as he holds his own even with Samantha Morton coming on board for a while. Sadly, I don't think the movie really knows how to end, before Paul Giamatti shows up and takes control, just pushing Pattinson to the side of his own movie which might be intentional. Or not.
The script, adapted by Cronenberg himself, should have been immolated on completion. With constant dialogue it feels more like an adaptation of a stage play than a novel. It's hard to convey just how painful it is to listen to the series of quasi-leftist monologues delivered by a fantastic cast who are made to look like fools. Quality actors like Binoche, Morton and Giamatti pop in and out like guests on some hellish chat show hosted by a mid-coitus coupling of Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein.
Everyone speaks in a purposely stilted manner with more pregnant pauses than a relay race for expectant mothers. Not being a teenage girl, I've never seen Pattinson on screen before and I'm not going to judge him on this performance. His New York accent is perfect but like the rest of the cast he's hampered by Cronenberg's direction. I realise of course this is all meant to illustrate how inhuman and disconnected from reality these characters are but it doesn't make it remotely watchable. The only scene which didn't make me want to tear my ears off involved the barber, the one character who doesn't speak like a character from a fringe theater production.
Cronenberg's career seems to have deteriorated into pretension. While his early works cleverly used the horror genre to communicate a subtext, now he feels he no longer needs to disguise his message. For this reason his films, like his audience, are suffering.
I've heard this film described as having little, if any narrative structure, and considering that David Cronenberg can dull out something fierce at times, I expected the worst, but really, one of the biggest reliefs I had with this film is the film's turning out to not be a meditative lyrical piece, like something along the lines of the exceedingly mediocre "Hunger", or the just plain terrible "Gomorrah", and yet, with that being said, while this film actually isn't the incarnation of tedium that I heard it was, this is still David Cronenberg we're talking about, so of coruse the film gets to be too meditative and slow for its own good, limping along ever so blandly. As I'll touch more upon later, the film has a certain amount of intrigue to it that keeps it going, and sometimes even makes it moderately entertaining, yet the film has plenty of slowness to spare, so you know that it's saying quite a bit to say that slowness is the least of this film's problem, with Cronenberg's script being the film's messiest misstep. Characterization is problematic, as there's not as much flesh-out as there should be to the characters, who are made even more problematic by questionable behavior, as well as the dialogue, for although the immense amount of snap to the dialogue actually helps in making this film as decent as it is, there come many points in which the dialogue gets too snappy for its own good, descending into difficult to buy levels of exhaustingly rather pompous over-sophistication, if not all-out strange poeticism. The level of total buyability within the dialogue is rather uneven, yet not as uneven as the film's thematic depths, which are hurt from the get-go by convolusion, and find themselves further damaged by the occasions in which realist sophistication within the theme deliveries is abandoned by the sake of imagery and story elements that are almost surrealistically over-the-top. Whether it be the weird rat rallies that reference the "a rat became the unit of currency" excerpt from Zbigniew Herbert's "Report from the Besieged City", or some dude who goes around throwing cream pies in the faces of figures of high stature and whose segment finds itself ever so bizarrely drenched in a serious tone, there are quite a few thematic aspects that are too overbearing to be subtle, which isn't to say that the limited subtlety ends with the imagery, for although this film certainly isn't broadly literal, it's an abstract piece with only so much subtlety, presenting philosophical depths that go tainted by so much overambition that the points in which the film leaves you to actually think go obscured. Still, no matter how much this film goes plagued by its overambition and occasions in which it ventures well over the top, David Cronenberg still taints the film with an air of arrogance that may not be so potent that frustrates you to no end and destroys this film, like it has with the overly meditative lyrical pieces that I feared this film was going to be, yet stands pronounced enough for the film to reek of self-pride that only brings more to attention the areas in which Cronenberg lets down his ambition, exacerbating the blandness that isn't as severe with this film as quite a few people say, but ultimately leaves this film to fall quite a ways behind when it comes to fulfilling potential. Of course, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't ultimately enjoy this film, for although I recognize that this film is not much more than mere critic bait that would have been much better if it didn't expect itself to be much better than it actually is, there are indeed aspects that back up this film's ambitions, particularly the stylistic ones.
A tightly scoped dialogue that often takes place in areas no larger than the back of a limo that may admittedly be awesomely expansive, yet remains the back of a limo nevertheless, this film leaves little room for Peter Suschitzky's full artistic tastes, yet that doesn't stop Suschitzky from delivering on cinematography that plays with as much scope as it can ever so cleverly, neatly, if not rather surrealistically delivering on slick shots that don't simply catch your eye, but immerse you in this environment, and on the occasions in which the photography actually finds an environment suited for the playing up of color and lighting, the film gets to looking pretty darn good. Stylistically, the film isn't too unique, yet remains pretty commendable, and when it comes to substance, the film slips up time and again, with bland unsubtlety and a bit of arrogance, yet not so much so that the bite of the story is rendered totally toothless, for although this story is so messily structured, partially because there's little structure to it to begin with, it's actually reasonably original, not so much so that it's all that much like nothing that you've ever seen, yet ultimately enough so to create a degree of immediate intrigue, made all the stronger by what David Cronenberg does, in fact, do right, at least as writer. Now, when I say that this film is dialogue-driven, I'm not kidding, so of course Don DeLillo had to have packed the original source material - which, in and of itself, was weakly recieved for a Don DeLillo novel - with much of the dialogue - both commendable and problematic - heard here, but rather they be by DeLillo or Cronenberg, the dialogue pieces that drive this film are actually kind of neat, or at least more often than not, because, make no bones about it, the dialogue gets to be too snappy for its own good. Still, the fact of the matter is that this dialogue is snappy, boasting about as much hardly relatable pompousness as enjoyable sophistication, but quite a bit enjoyable sophistication, nevertheless, that livens up the film's meditative intrigue and supplements the thematic depth that is so often so messily handled directorially that it falls flat, but not so much so that there aren't occasions in which the film does, in fact, present an aspect through all of the messy unsubtlety and convolution that leaves you with something to think about. The film is reliant on all kinds of ramblings, exposition and other various talkery, and all too often, that doesn't work, yet more often than expected, the dialogue is colorful enough to keep things livened up, if not, on a few occasions, - dare I say it? - kind of entertaining, thus the film is kept from plummeting into total mediocrity, let alone disaster, and the performers behind the dialogue help, or at least some of them, for although you can expect material to generally be so lacking that more than a few performances come out as kind of medicore, as well as for Juliette Binoche to seem as though she couldn't hold on to an American accent if it was trying to pull her from the edge of a cliff, and for Sarah Gadon to actually prove pretty shoddy, with a profound lack of presence and expressiveness, and shakiness in her line delivery, I found quite a few key players to be kind of charismatic, and when Paul Giamatti finally arrives in the final act, he steals the show as one of the best supporting performances thus far this year, delivering on a striking, if not engrossing range and intensity in his emotion, expressions and overall presence that effortlessly defines the Benno Levin character as a mysterious and tortured soul. If nothing else, Giamatti's performance makes the final act - or at least everything in the final act up until the eye-roll-worthy non-ending - the relatively considerable high point that it is, but Giamatti shows up fashionably late, thus nearly the entirety of the film truly rests upon the shoulders of Robert Pattinson, someone who I've actually considered for quite some time to be an actually pretty promising talent, so much so that one of the reasons why I was initially looking foward to this film was because I was eager to see what Pattinson would do with a critic-targeting dramatic character piece, so you can imagine my disappointment in finding that Pattinson really is given ever so little to do. That being said, regardless of what many people say, Pattinson is rather, to me at least, charismatic, confidently embodying the stature of a man as sophisticated and powerful as the Eric Packer character, and when it comes time for material - no matter how limited - to arrive, Pattinson subtly layers Packer enough to grace our lead with some kind of mystery that supplements what intrigue there is in the film, and further shows the potential within Pattinson, who remains in desperate need of more material and, certainly, a more respectable film, but still flaunt enough of his potential to keep the film going, though not enough for the film to be redeemed of its missteps, for although there is actually a fair bit to compliment about this film, the final product slips up in way too many areas, failing to be the rewarding effort that some critics claim it to be, though not to where it's the disaster that many others claim it to be, having enough going for it to keep the patient going, even if it fails to be all that rewarding.
When the ride finally, finally ends, the film is left flat, with many an overly meditative slow spell to make all the worse a problematic screenplay with flawed characterization and occasions of near-laughable strangeness that supplement the thematic depth's being uneven, yet still at least consistent in convolution and limited subtlety, though not at the expense of a moderate degree of self-congradulatory arrogance that intensifies the blandness that renders the final product all too improvable, though hardly a disaster, for although this film is not what it fancies itself, let alone what it should be, it boasts nifty stylistic touches, as well as a story with a reasonable degree of originality that creates mild immediate intrigue, expanded by what occasions of effectiveness there are within the sometimes problematic but generally colorful dialogue, as well as by a few charismatic performances, particularly that of the underwritten yet still promising Robert Pattinson, thus leaving "Cosmopolis" to cruise along as a, for the patient, reasonably interesting dramatic piece, even if it does fall short of potential quite tremendously.
2.5/5 - Fair