COSMOPOLIS Review

There is likely not enough pages in the world that could ever wrap themselves around the multiple ideas and theories that are tossed out in David Cronenberg's latest Cosmopolis. The film is based on a 2003 novel by Don DeLillo that wasn't all that well received itself but clearly sparked some kind of intrigue in the director as he's developed the story into an hour and forty-five minute feature film full of thoughts but lacking a main idea. Like its main character played by the surprisingly commanding Robert Pattinson the film believes itself to be smarter than everyone else. This plan of keeping the basic plot so simple that the overall story can seemingly go anywhere seems to backfire on the director and everyone involved as the film generally doesn't consist of much at all and it feels like it. There are those slickly made films every now and then that are so simple they are fascinating in their execution but Cosmopolis can't slip under the radar no matter how many big words it tries to throw at its audience. As I walked out of the theater I was still puzzled as to what I'd just experienced and couldn't really comprehend if any of it really meant anything to me, if any of it left an impression on me. Sure, there were certain pieces of dialogue, theories even that I found interesting and would liked to have seen explored further, but when it all comes down to that final (and only) tension filled scene we realize that nothing has built to this point. Not even the self discovery of Pattinson's asset manager Eric Packer can rescue the film from its dialogue and metaphoric heavy messages. There is something to the film that is strangely engaging, I'll give it that, but not enough to warrant the idea of translating these words to the screen.

Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) and his security guard
Torval (Kevin Durand) wait for the limo.
In essence the film can be summed up in one sentence. Packer, a 28 year-old asset manager in the not too distant future rides in his stretch limo across New York City for a haircut. That is the basis for what inspires several interactions throughout his trip that include discussions about his business, his status and the state of that power he holds over the Wall Street arena. The film is so precisely directed that we cannot help but to marvel at the genuine care that seems to have been taken to manufacture such a world, but unfortunately that is the only thing about this world that feels the least bit genuine. Pattinson, despite his bread and butter franchise is at least trying to break the mold and avoid falling into the trappings of mainstream studio films. Bucking the system by doing obscure and limit-pushing material such as this, but his character for all the danger and excess he likes to indulge in speaks in a monotone voice and conveys little emotion for us to understand his goals much less him as a human being. We watch and discover more and more about the character but become less enthralled with him. He is a kind of golden boy in the finance industry and is betting his company's future against the value of the yen as he fights the traffic of a pop stars funeral, a presidential visit, and an ongoing riot that seems strangely similar to an exaggerated Occupy Wall Street movement. In the process of getting to the barber he speaks with young, smart associates who always seem one step ahead of the average human being in their conversation guessing what their boss is thinking of them, how he is judging them. Packer will exit the vehicle occasionally mainly to eat with his new bride who seems to exist in a world completely opposite his own.

Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti) faces off against Packer
in the final act of Cosmopolis.
Whether it be that our lead character is talking to his mistress/art dealer (Juliette Binoche), his chief of theory as played by the always captivating Samantha Morton or another of his female associates where an intense conversation takes place as Packer gets his rectum examined. As all of these strange goings-on occur though, as we see the slew of people come in and out of the limo we begin to naturally catch on to the idea this is not simply about money for our complicated character but is more about constructing the image, the philosophy of a man who truly is more than the same person we all are at the base level. Packer is trying to be more than a man, he is attempting to represent a certain set of ideas that don't really have representation but are instead hidden from the world because of their shameful truths. He seeks out sexual satisfaction with different partners despite the disconnected marriage he shares with equally wealthy Elise (Sarah Gadon). He is looking to destroy the past to build a new future not only for himself but for this lost generation that have grown up believing their is an American dream they can someday achieve. It is fine enough ideas, and the dialogue is sharply written as it is seemingly translated directly from DeLillo's book but as it is the movie tells more than it shows and in that I can't fully understand the justification for why one would want to watch this film rather than simply read the book. The ideas would likely stick better with the reader than the viewer. Even with the almost Kubrickian style that Cronenberg implies to capture the visuals and direct, emotionless delivery of the dialogue we cannot become fully invested in Pattison's odyssey.

Eric Packer's new wife Elise (Sarah Gadon) is just as
wealthy if not as adventurous as her new husband.
What does stick from the countless conversations held in Cosmopolis is this idea of how we or our world has come to be how it is in its most current form. That idea that Packer is always challenging himself to overcome and to ultimately figure out. How should he know what to do with his future, how does he become the human being he so badly wants to be without knowing if he can rely on what fuels any persons knowledge: their experiences. That theory becomes as close to the main idea of the film as we get. That is fine except for the fact that the film itself is cold and for all the deep and intelligent conversations that are being had it feels empty. In the final act of the film Packer meets a disgruntled past employee (Paul Giamatti) where the limits of who Packer is and what he wants out of this life are put to the test. It is both the most entertaining and intriguing part of the film which could be for many reasons but what it ultimately proves is that a film doesn't have to be so self-serious and restrained to the point it can undoubtedly be considered art but can be as thought provoking as it is interesting and fun to watch. The tension is built perfectly as Pattinson and Giamatti dance around the films best conversations and topics. They are the ones that stick with the audience and not just because they are the last ones we hear in the film. I have never really responded to Cronenberg's work the way some do and I find it hard to see what has garnered him such a fine reputation as a filmmaker. There is an abstraction here that I simply don't understand in terms of filmmaking but I do consider myself more intelligent than to simply buy into rich, powerful, good looking people spouting philosophy at me and for those reasons expecting me to believe every word of it without question. If that is what Cronenberg is doing than there are plenty of logical questions that need to be addressed in his film. Did the guy really need a haircut in the first place? Let's start there.