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Movie Review: Cosmopolis

Sep 022012
 
 By , September 2, 2012

Cosmopolis

‘Cosmopolis’ — a film review by Gary Chew

David Cronenberg is back with Cosmopolis and Robert Pattinson who’s not a vampire but the character he plays is — metaphorically.

The “life blood” of Cosmopolis’ hero is very verdant.

After reading the next three paragraphs, you may find yourself not wanting to see Cosmopolis, but please read on through the rest of the review before deciding.

Cronenberg’s script is a string of dark, philosophical conversations that are stretched across the spine of a shaky, almost non-existent plot that tells the tale of a young, nihilistic billionaire capitalist struggling in his high-tech limo/office to get through the chaos of a near-future New York City to get a haircut.

Cosmopolis

Robert Pattinson as Eric Packer.

Really.

Cosmopolis is replete, front to back, with aphoristic exchanges that, initially, seem to be non-sequiturs. But close listening should give you the hang of the verbal shortcuts the characters speak back and forth. Doing so will help you realize how deeply cynical and unsettling this movie is while you (may) chuckle at its absurdity that surrounds the strange life and times of Eric Packer (Pattinson).

And…oh the people the very empty Eric meets on his way to the barbershop that’s hampered by the fact traffic congestion and disorder in the city are at a high pitch because the President is in town. It’s not clear whether the Commander-in-Chief is a Democrat or a Republican. Cronenberg’s screenplay (from Don DeLillo’s novel) presents a too-far-into-the-abyss society for that to make a difference.

Really.

Through nearly the first two acts, Cronenberg has trained his cinematic sight on what Samantha Morton’s “Vinja,” unabashedly refers to as: The Art of Moneymaking. When Morton’s gliding along in Eric’s stretch-limo, listen even more carefully. She’s been given many of the film’s best lines.
Cronenberg’s tone is severe and comically dark.

Cosmopolis

Paul Giamatti as Benno Levin.

One might draw the conclusion from most of what Cosmopolis suggests is that: unfettered capitalism leads to madness…or as more specific lines in the film say: “…destruction is a creative act,” “…violence needs a purpose,” “…reputation rises on a word and slips on a syllable”…or my favorite, as spoken by Shiner, Eric’s in-limo numbers guy (Jay Baruchel): “Do you ever have the feeling you don’t know what’s going on?”

The anti-megabiz scenario goes on till one reaches the point he or she might have to consider that all this nightmarish fantasy is but a wet dream once had in the last century by Ayn Rand.

Following Cronenberg’s pummeling of big business, Cosmopolis loses focus. I got the feeling that the director was tacking on stuff as the film became more specifically about Eric and reflecting on his past, even more metaphorically opaque..with bizarre twists to bring action into a chatty film of well-written, intellectualizing banter that might make some heads spin.

This is not a Hollywood kind of motion picture, if you know what I mean. But have you ever seen a David Cronenberg movie that is?

I need to add here, though, that I’m glad there are filmmakers who don’t create Hollywood kinds of motion pictures. The word cosmopolis implies “diversity.” With David Cronenberg films we certain get that at the cinema.

Cosmopolis

Didi Fancher (Juliette Binoche) in Cosmopolis.

Part of the cast was disappointing. Two well-knowns should have passed on the casting call: Juliette Binoche is seen early as one of the women who jumps aboard Eric’s office-on-wheels for a tryst on his leather seat cushions. Binoche loses her American accent for a few phrases that put her more closely to making love motoring down the Champs-Elyées than Park Avenue.

As Benno, Paul Giamatti’s scene with Eric that closes the film should have been re-written…with Cronenberg striving for something more like a payoff…with or without Giamatti, whom I usually appreciate a lot as an actor.

Sarah Gadon, also in Cronenberg’s recent “A Dangerous Method,” is seen in Cosmopolis as Elise. Her character, which has plenty of pithy lines too, is Eric’s very rich “girl friend” whom, I found, as they chat on, has just recently married him, in a sort of: oh-by-the-way kind of fashion. Most of their conversation is less philosophical and more of the kind that suggests Eric is trying to get his wife into bed.

I will spoil you with this: she doesn’t go for it.

LOL, sort of.

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Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.
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