Cosmopolis is a “where to begin” film…where to begin…yes, where to begin. Well, I suppose that in the end all one can do is be as honest as possible and say, as much as it saddens me since it was written and directed by idiosyncratic and ambitious filmmaker David Cronenberg, that Cosmopolis is…terrible, just terrible, a misfire from beginning to end, with almost no redeeming value whatsoever. At the same time, I could never take my eyes off the screen. Was it because I was hoping that it would all turn into something, anything? Was it because I was watching a train wreck in slow motion? Was it because I was in shock over the idea that so much talent had been put to use for a movie that was so obviously not working and no one seems to know it? I don’t know. But I just couldn’t look away.
The story revolves around twenty-eight year old billionaire Eric Packer who decides to take his state of the art limo (if state of the art means a vehicle normally used in futuristic sci-fi films) to get a haircut, an Odyssey like journey made more difficult by the city being confronted by Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and a visit from the president. The movie probably gets off to a weak start by leaving out a key event, an opening scene where the audience is informed that Packer is hemorrhaging all his money, a scene which would give context to almost all of his actions, especially his primary one of wanting to get a short back and sides (rather, we have to read between the lines to get this, rarely the best choice in a screenplay). Instead, we are told there may be a threat on Packer’s life, something that gives the story no context at all.
At the same time, it’s doubtful that such a scene would have ultimately helped much since the movie is mostly a series of pax de deuxs in which people have intellectual conversations in highly stylized language that makes anything anyone says sounds like they’re speaking Klingon. The rest of it revolves around Packer having sex (with an art dealer fuck buddy; one of his body guards; and his doctor who gives him a prostrate exam that nearly gives him an orgasm). Oh, yes, he also occasionally runs into his wife where he spends time asking her when they are going to have sex again. And the majority of it happens in the back of his four wheeled penteconter which crawls at such a snail’s pace, it looks like it’s going backwards at times (Ulysses got home in less time than it takes Packer to get to his barbershop).
My hats are off to all of the actors—well, most of them. Filled with such stellar performers as Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton and Paul Giamatti, they’re so devoted to their characters, they actually had me convinced at times they new what their lines meant, though I still question whether they did.
But then there’s Robert Pattinson, who plays the callow Packer. Where to begin. Yes, where to begin. First, in full disclosure, I have never been able to get through a Twilight film. I even consider it one of those movies whose damage is far greater than anyone suspects. Because of the franchise’s success, we are going to be burdened with film after film in which the leads are given to Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, who just don’t have the heft or ability to carry them off (I call it the Love Story curse). Pattinson mumbles through most of his lines (it worked for Marlon Brando, but not so much here), never once convincing in his role. Though it’s easy to understand why he was cast as a vampire in those other films (every time you look at his mouth, you swear he has fangs for teeth), his casting here may be a bit more puzzling.
In the end, the best performance is given by the limo Packer rides in. It’s a sleek black number (at least on the inside—so slimming, you know), with a leather throne, couch, computers, television, fully stocked and fully lit bars, and a urinal. It slowly gets covered by graffiti and dented up along the way, which means it also has the most fully developed character arc as well.