Cosmopolis Movie Review
COSMOPOLIS is a movie that would work much better as a stage play and was probably much better as a novel by Don DeLillo. Every character represents some aspect of American capitalism and doesn’t really represent much as humans, making it difficult for the audience to ever get involved with what’s happening. In truth, not much happens in the film at all and instead, each sequence is used to deliver monologues, which are used to express a discontent for the world or some insight into the effects of capitalism. The problem, of course, is that a movie that has no real characters or plot and is nothing but a statement on the world is not really a movie. In turn, COSMOPOLIS lacks a lot, but if you go into the film accepting of what it’s trying to do and willing to read more into it, the film will at least be enjoyable.
Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is an extremely wealthy, young businessman that decides he wants his limo driver to take him to get a haircut, despite the crowded, busy streets. We follow him throughout his day as he makes his way through the city, stopping along the way to eat and meet up with various lovers and coworkers. Each character he encounters represents something, Packer himself representing capitalistic greed, Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti) represents the poor and oppressed, Elise Shifrin (Sarah Gadon) is the purity that wealth and greed can’t buy and so on. But these characters aren’t wearing signs around their neck saying what they are; the audience has to read into it and connect everything themselves. Director David Cronenberg doesn’t make it easy on us and often times he fails in clearly defining his characters and their purpose.
The plight of Eric Packer should have been more dramatic and intense, but instead, the audience really struggles to care. Every other character is completely empty and it isn’t until the final confrontation between Packer and Levin that we get to know anything about anyone else in the film. The good news for the film is that the final scene with Packer and Levin is spectacular, showcasing for the first time the acting talents of Robert Pattinson. Of course, it helped that he was sparring with one of the most talented and underrated actors of our generation in Paul Giamatti. The power of the last 10 minutes is what saved COSMOPOLIS for me and maybe I’m being generous because of how great the performances were. Every performance was pretty good, even from Robert Pattinson, who is proving himself to be an efficient, precise actor, but I still find he lacks the charisma and charm needed for a leading man. The actors did their job and the film’s problems fall solely on writer/director David Cronenberg.
Cronenberg fails on numerous accounts and one can’t help but wonder if a more existential, creative director could have done better with the source material. COSMOPOLIS is not a straight-forward, linear story and required a gentle, creative touch; one that Cronenberg typically doesn’t have in his films. He’s a decent storyteller, but he struggles when it comes to deeper themes. That was on display in COSMOPOLIS, where he struggled to bring in the audience to the anti-capitalism theme he was trying to establish. Even if you picked up on the grander themes in the film, they were told so poorly that it was hard to care about the themes or the characters. The result is a shallow film that’s only saved by the incomparable Paul Giamatti.
On a side note, I wonder how Robert Pattinson’s Twilight fans felt watching this film. It’s a good career move for Pattinson as it showed his willingness and ability to step far outside his Edward character. But I can’t imagine the average Twilight fan liked or appreciated what they saw in COSMOPOLIS.