There are films that are designed to be different. Whether they make you think or even lose yourself in the story, these are the films that stick with you. However, you will get a film – if you are lucky, only once in your lifetime – that you only see once. And even then, that will be once too often.
Cosmopolis is the latest film by cult director David Cronenberg, based on the novel by Don DeLilio. The film follows 28-year-old asset manger Eric Packer (played by Robert Pattinson), who tries to manoeuvre himself in Manhattan traffic to get a haircut. Mix in some seemingly technical conversations about currencies, the odd sexual encounter (none of which are with his new wife) and an over-looming threat on Packer’s life and you’ve got this.
Now, Cosmopolis is not for everyone – there is a reason for its mixed reviews after its premiere at Cannes in May 2012. If anything, it loses any interest it has as soon as Pattinson starts talking. It is hard to gauge any enthusiasm about a film that is so pretentious it makes abstract art look like street graffiti. Cosmopolis could have been more than empty and almost insignificant conversations and encounters, but the dialogue makes it impossible to relate to. It also makes Packer a hard character to pin down – do we want to hate/like this guy and what is his problem?
The lack of backstory doesn’t help – this is probably due to the confinements of Packer’s limo, which is where most of the story takes place. Surrounded by modern technology, soundproofed from the outside world and enough legroom for a giggly Twihard entourage, Pattinson just has to sit on a swanky chair. He talks about finance until he asks random questions, has the odd fling and even has an intimate doctor’s appointment in his shiny white limo.
In effect, Packer is untouchable and seeing as the whole story revolves around him, you can’t help but feel ‘alienated’ by him. Bless his soul; Pattinson is probably trying really hard to shake off the Twilight-thing that will linger over his future career, and his stony-face expression and heartless composure does the right thing: to make you want to end the suffering of this character (and end your own at the same time).
The thing is, David Cronenberg’s early stuff is really good. But since he has gone mainstream, his filmography has not been the most…accessible. This is a film by a guy who made fantastic sci-fi/horror films The Fly and Scanners, as well as the brilliant History of Violence. As the writer and director of Cosmopolis, he makes the most of the source material – which charts the protagonist’s eventual meltdown leading to a violent climax – but to do this effectively, you need to have cause and effect. Unfortunately, the former is missing and for the viewer, it loses them at the word go.
In short, Cosmopolis is pretentious, confusing and altogether difficult to consider enjoyable. You have been warned.