Thursday, 21 June 2012


2012. Dir: David Cronenberg. Starring: Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, Kevin Durand, Emily Hampshire and Paul Giamatti. ●●●●○

In interviews David Cronenberg has repeatedly admitted that Robert Pattinson (or R.Pattz if you're down with the YA lingo) was not his first choice for the role of Eric Packer, investment banking billionaire and master of the universe. If memory serves me correctly Colin Farrell was originally linked to the role before the Twilight alumni got the role. It's an unlikely casting choice Cronenberg passes off as being for the investment Pattinson brings or for the right age and yet the baggage that he brings, the undead persona serve him well reminding us that Pattinson has significant promise as an actor as well as a star. Perhaps I'm being unfair starting a review of Cosmopolis adapted from Don DeLillo's 2003 novel on the merits of casting Pattinson, but on the other hand the 108 minute film comprises of duologue's with Pattinson usually in the confined space of the back of his stretch limousine so if the central casting had failed the whole film would have failed with it.

Normally I would now make a stab at summarising the plot, but this opaque curiosity barely has one, the limo crawls across New York to where Packer wants to have a haircut and as this odyssey progresses acquaintances, employees and lovers all provide prospective to the journey and what the future holds for our mysterious hero. All the while the Yuan is collapsing, Packer's marriage is disintegrating and society itself seems to be imploding. We see few of the supporting players arrive in Packer's bubble and none of them leave and only a tiny minority even consider the existence of each other, yet they all have a unique perspective on Packer's future and his character.

So if Cosmopolis (universal city Greek fans) isn't about the plot what is driving it? It's about mood, a foreboding atmospheric intensity that clings to Pattinson and it's about intellectual ideas some characters talk but many more pronounce - Samantha Morton especially spews out a collection of statements rather - and it's about the cult of money, the nameless celebrities who criss-cross Manhattan and London in their Prousted vehicles - isolating themselves from the populace around them, but when invited into their gleaming cars we see individuals as emotionless and vapid as the imposing exteriors.

Packer has lost the ability to feel. His vast portfolio, incomprehensible to the audience, has eaten away at his soul so sex, art, politics, family and even violence no longer elicit a response. And so Pattinson is perfect for the role, there's an emptiness in the eyes, so exploited in his casting as Edward Cullen, that invites us to believe this playboy desperate for any high. Finally his alt-Twilight career is paying off and I very much hope to see him stretch himself, working for other auteurs that play with his image.

The rest of the cast do a great job, however many of them are simple ciphers, they appear for single conversations and almost represent emotional states. Morton is detached, Juliet Binoche slutty, Jay Baruchel nervy, Paul Giamatti angry. Only Emily Hampshire as his assistant, called in on her day off and clearly in awe of his talents and sexuality (even during a prostate exam), gets the chance to show any range, something she grabs with both hands becoming a beacon of characterisation in the centre of the movie.

Cronenberg does a fantastic job of boiling down DeLillo's novel and capturing the relevance of the anti-capitalist sentiment. Whilst this is another film that fits in his later canon of movies that shoot for the audience's intellectual reactions rather than their physical ones - there's a gunshot wound at one point that stays remarkably un-Cronenbergian - there is a glimmer of his earlier work in the otherworldliness of it's leading character and the acceptance that society is balanced on a knife-edge and one slight tilt either way will inevitable lead to anarchy.

Overall Cosmopolis is divisive and dense, but although many viewers will want to escape from it's bleak ramblings a few will find it's black heart is worth the ticket price.

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