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Movie Review: 'Cosmopolis'


Starring Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, Kevin Durand
Directed by David Cronenberg
Rated R

The second this movie was finished, the person sitting behind me in the (nearly sold out) theater said "I want my two hours back".  While I certainly don't think the same thing, I can't exactly blame him.  Cosmopolis has been released in a massive six theaters nationwide, and that's probably for the best.  Cosmopolis is a good movie, but it's also a really obtuse one.  The best comparison is probably last year's Tree of Life, though even that's only in the ball park.

Cosmopolis stars Robert Pattinson as Eric Packer, a 28-year-old billionaire trekking through an violent, dangerous Manhattan in a high tech limo.  The prize he's willing to risk his life for?  A haircut.  And that's the part that makes the most sense in the story.

The film is rather episodic in nature.  Packer's sound insulated limo slowly lurches through the crowded city, feeling less like a car and more like a spaceship.  Occasionally he has visitors in the form of various assistants and advisors.  They engage in conversations about the economy in language I didn't understand and probably wasn't meant to.  The parts that I did understand sounding almost beat-by-beat like something that you would hear in a Philosophy of Economics class, which did still manage to hold my attention.  What's on the surface isn't really the point, though.  It's the subtext that really matters, and the subtext works.

Packer doesn't really behave in a way that you could call "human".  As much as his limo isolates him from the rest of the world, we get the impression that he's just as detached when he's outside of it.  He's a man with all the skills that could make him rich in the modern: He's brilliant with mathematics and obsessed with detail.  His first memory is from age four, where he calculated his weight on every planet in the solar system.  He has his doctor perform a physical on him every day, and is horribly upset when told that he has an asymmetrical colon.  Why?  Because it isn't symmetrical.

His associates aren't much better.  His new wife (Sarah Gadon) refuses to have sex with him, saying that she wants to conserve energy that could be used for work.  An odd excuse, considering there are plenty of things wrong with him that she could cite, but it's one that speaks volumes about the world she lives in.

In fact, the only people in this futuristic world who behave even remotely human are a group of rioting anarchists.  Though they are certainly not without their own quirks, like an obsession with rats.

It'd be easy to see Pattinson's choice to take this role as a desperate attempt to gain legitimacy after the series that will not be named, but he actually manages to knock this out of the park.  Say what you will about what he's done in the past, this role proves he can really act.

Even stranger then Packer's machine-like traits are the bits of humanity he seems to have retained.  As said before, he's seeking to get a haircut (one that he clearly doesn't need).  But not just any haircut, one from a specific barber in a specific barbershop.  From what he says, we find out that on this day his company's stocks are plummeting and his fortune, said to be "in the tens of billions" is slowly pouring down the drain.  Yet, the hair cut remains his one real focus.

I certainly don't want to give the impression that I fully "got" this movie.  Most of the dialogue has to be mentally picked apart in order to be even partially understood, and even more so in order to understand how it actually fits into the rest of the film.  For good or for bad, the film is paced slowly enough that you have the chance to think about such things, and doing so just makes the film deeper and more rewarding for people who are willing to do so. 

Nonetheless, everyone has their own breaking point for obscurantism, and this film managed to pass it about three fourths through for me.  The surreal dialogue, the unrealistic behavior, the long, looooong conversations finally managed to turn what was captivating into just a bore.  That's a largely subjective barrier, though, and others could have very different reactions

Overall, this isn't a hard movie to make a decision whether or not to see (if you even have a choice).  Those who are more into art films will likely love it.  Movie-goers who demand a more traditional narrative style should stay far, far away.

Reader Comments (1)

And by "more traditional narrative style" you mean...action movies and badly written dialogues?!! The dialogue alone is a good reason to see this movie. Not to mention Rob and Rob's performance, whose other movies (even the series that will not be named) are very, very watchable, if for no other reason, simply because he is in it. By the way, Eric Packer invests in currency, NOT stocks and he has asymetrical prostates, not COLON. Have you even seen Cosmopolis?!! I think not. YOU ALL, GO SEE COSMOPOLIS -- I LOVED IT!

Monday, August 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrsd

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