[Review] – Cosmopolis

5 Sep

Title: Cosmopolis
Year: 2012
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: David Cronenberg, based on the novel by Don DeLillo
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton, Sarah Gadon, Mathieu Almaric, Juliette Binoche
MPAA Rating: R, some strong sexual content including graphic nudity, violence and language
Runtime: 109 min
IMDb Rating: 6.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Metacritic: 59

I have a deep affinity for the work of David Cronenberg, the Canadian master pioneer of the body horror genre, one of those directors that just really likes to challenge himself creatively with each film and that, as a result, has given us such films as Videodrome, The Fly and Eastern Promises. He usually takes his time between films, some three years or so in average, and yet this one is coming less than a year after his 2011 effort, A Dangerous Method. I actually really, really liked that film, probably a bit more than most, giving it a strong A- and having it ranked as my 33rd favorite film of last year.

Well, Cosmopolis comes to us just a year after A Dangerous Method, and while I’m all for more films from this man, and I think this is a pretty good film, this one just isn’t as great as usual. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a film that I like and that I will no doubt recommend, it’s just that I don’t love it as much as I want to. It’s a very skillfully done adaptation of a very complex Don DeLillo novel, and Mr. Cronenberg, unsurprisingly, knows just how to meander the psychologically complicated world in which it’s set, but I just couldn’t get into it as much as I thought I would.

Now, I want to make something clear, the reason why this doesn’t work has absolutely nothing to do with the casting. From the get go, casting the lead in this film was something that was going to be tough to pull off since the characters anchors the whole movie, appearing in every single scene and having the burden to carry a 109-minute David Cronenberg film. It’s the story of Eric Packer, a billionaire financier in his late twenties, king of Wall Street in a not too distant future. And it’s with this character that we stay through the whole movie, a day in his life, as he’s driven around in a limousine across Manhattan, starting to figure out stuff just as, with every tick of the clock, his empire appears to be crumbling before his eyes.

Like I said, this is a very challenging role, because not many actors have the charisma necessary to carry a film pretty much all by themselves, and even if they do, charisma is not something that really translates well in David Cronenberg features. At first the role was given to Colin Farrell, who then had to bolt because it interfered with his Total Recall schedule, and then his replacement was announced: Robert Pattinson. Yes, that Robert Pattinson, the one you know from playing a glittering vampire and for whom hoards of tween girls scream their ovaries out. To say it was a casting move met with skepticism would be an understatement.

The thing is, Mr. Pattinson really wants to shed his Twilight image badly, wants to show that he can really act and that he can be in these edgy films by powerhouse filmmakers. His first attempt at this came earlier this year with Bel Ami, which I gave a measly C+ to and which left me very unconvinced about his acting abilities, since I didn’t really feel as though he could carry a movie all by himself. And yet I felt as though here he handled it very nicely, he proved that he really could act, and he did it with a role that would be a real challenge for any actor. So yeah, don’t say this doesn’t work because of him. Hell, don’t say this doesn’t work, period. It does work; it’s just the kind of film that you admire for its sheer existence rather than downright love.

Because really, this is not the kind of film that I think anyone can love. I’ve heard some Cronenberg diehards say this isn’t their cup of tea, because it’s too icy and too detached and too cerebral, and yet it’s impossible to dismiss it, impossible not to at least be compelled by it. It’s dense as far as how abstractly structured it is, and the dialogue is really hard to really connect into, but this is David Cronenberg and he’s up for the challenge and you just have to give it to the guy for never shying away from it, for really giving it to you the way this story just had to be told, whether that meant it would be easy to digest or not.

I won’t spoil everything that goes down during that twenty-four hour period in Eric Packer’s life (though you probably have heard about that backseat prostate exam by now), I won’t spoil the events and the characters he meets because that’s for you to experience. I will just say that this kind of take on the 1% that Mr. Cronenberg is offering us is something worth seeing, even if it most certainly won’t be like anything else you’ve seen, and even if there’s a good chance it won’t be for you. I liked it even if I couldn’t really wrap my head around it, it’s thick and intellectual dialogue, it’s weird scenes; I still really liked it.

Let’s talk a bit more about Robert Pattinson before wrapping this up. This is, by the way, by far the best performance we’ve seen from him. It’s also the first one we’ve seen since that whole Kristen Stewart debacle, something that has nothing to do with it since it was shot before that went down, but still, it’ll be in people’s minds. He’s fantastic here because he really doesn’t have that much emotional range, and between that and his good looks he’s actually kind of perfect as this finance wunderkind. He still has to grow a lot as an actor, which is super evident in the scene he has with Paul Giamatti in which he’s just totally outshone by an experienced actor doing wonders with his role, but I liked what he showed here, and since he’s apparently reuniting with Mr. Cronenberg for the director’s next, it seems as though a legendary filmmaker saw something in him, too.

Cosmopolis was a very tricky novel to adapt for the screen, needing a very firm hand and tone to nail this weird structure in which there’s really no story and unapologetically alienating dialogue. It found the right hand in David Cronenberg’s, who remains one of the most special filmmakers living even if this one isn’t as amazing as his usual output, and in Robert Pattinson it found a lead actor that, while not a great one (yet) is showing us that he’s serious about his career, and making all the right moves to back that statement up.

Grade: B+

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One Response to “[Review] – Cosmopolis”

  1. AndyWatchesMovies September 7, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Seems to be a love/hate movie

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