As a person who seeks out bizarre films on a regular basis I thought I had hit pay dirt when I sat down to watch “Cosmopolis” (R). I’d been anxious to screen this film as soon as I’d seen the initially released trailer, which showed a subtle science fiction landscape coupled with the fact that master of “body horror,” director David Cronenberg had returned to his odder side. Yet as the film spooled to the big screen I received an entirely different and less pleasing experience altogether. “Cosmopolis” stars Robert Pattinson (Twilight) as Eric Packer, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager as he rode through Manhattan in his tricked out limousine in order to get a haircut, on a day filled with confrontations in various forms.
Most of the film is set inside Packer’s limousine, which doubles as a futuristic mobile office outfitted with computer monitors and encased in an armored shell for his protection. This atmosphere places Packer in the thick of New York City during a presidential visit and amid a series of vocal protests in the same vein as the Occupy Wall Street movement. We find our lead very much closed off from the rest of the world, tucked away in his tank like vehicle, which also happens to be where many of my problems with this film come from. I am all for innovative settings and avoiding these rapid fire camera cuts but during the many dialog-laden scenes with various employees and even a doctor’s visit, I found it difficult to stay engaged with the film’s presentation. Leading to the monotony moreover, Pattinson and his co-stars talk in a mostly stoic, robotic manner, which admittedly was interesting for the first few minutes before it quickly grew tiresome.
While the pacing of the film and the way rising action was established didn’t appeal to me in the way I had hoped, I found a handful of the film’s work to be quite redeeming. First off, the cinematography is beautiful. The actors are shot up close through most of the film providing a certain intensity wherein anything said carries tremendous weight. The use of darkness and the washing out of certain cast members and scenes play into the vacant and dreary picture of this modern New York City, which has been transformed to reveal how dangerous the city has become and just how much of the place we know now has been lost. But unfortunately, the science fiction film I was hoping for never managed to present itself on the screen.
I really wanted to like “Cosmopolis,” but the overwhelming soulless vacancy in each of the characters didn’t really offer anyone for me to rally behind, thus dulling the work entirely. Pattinson’s Packer may encounter many different types of personalities, but conversationally, the role felt both forced and tedious for the viewer. In “Cosmopolis,” there is detail without substance and the film dragged on and on, similar to his last film “A Dangerous Method,” which we also panned.
”Cosmopolis” is certainly not a film for everyone. While it’s artistically creative, there’s just something missing entirely from the movie that just leaves the viewer with the same emptiness that resides in Pattinson himself. Perhaps the film will become a cult success from the visionary, Cronenberg a popular midnight movie someday, with people like myself waiting on line in the cold while a long white limo cruises by with just the faint sound of laughter coming from the inside. Or perhaps it will be relegated to the memory of a novel transformed into a forgotten movie and a minor blip on the collective resume of an otherwise stellar cast.
“Cosmopolis” is rated R, starring Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, and Paul Giamatti, has a runtime of 108 minutes, and is released in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, August 17th.
- Jay Rubin