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Cosmopolis Review

By Mark Grady

Voyage of the Damned


The life of a struggling actor is difficult. The life of a friend of a struggling actor is equally difficult. Attending a steady stream of young writer showcases, musical interpretations of Shakespeare, and the dreaded experimental theater can be occasionally enlightening and enjoyable but is, more often than not, a slog. While the performances themselves may be good, the writer/director's (usually the case) forced attempts to be avant-garde while plumbing the depths of the human soul and psyche, the dangers of a post-industrial society, man's inhumanity to man, and whatever other angsts they would like you to think kept them awake through the dark nights of their adolescence - all in the space of 120 minutes (if you're lucky) - generally result in an awkward and embarrassing evening for all involved.

"Cosmopolis" captures that experience.

Eric Packer, a young brilliant billionaire fund manager (Robert Pattinson, "Twilight"), has set off in his limousine on a cross-town trek to get a haircut. As can happen in New York City, this takes roughly 12-hours, during which time various associates of Mr. Packer join him in the car for sex and/or cryptic and stilted conversations, during which it comes to light that our young protagonist has made some very risky bets on the market, has a very strange marriage, and has a rather large target painted on his back, for reasons unknown. Unfortunately, even with a death threat in play, the story, like the limousine, barely moves forward.

The performances in "Cosmopolis" are consistent in their flatness, which speaks more to writer / director David Cronenberg's ("Eastern Promises", "A History of Violence") vision than to any failing on the part of the actors. As a director, Cronenberg succeeds brilliantly. Pattinson is played to his strengths as the toneless, humorless, boring cipher around whom things happen, and the supporting parts of the distant wife (Sarah Gadon, "The Moth Diaries"), the menacing and mealy-mouthed chief of security (Kevin Durand, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"), and the random sex partner (Juliette Binoche, "Chocolat"), are all clearly intentionally one-note. The feel and the tone are strong and the thread remains true throughout. Also, as the film is shot largely inside an enclosed space, it's impossible to not draw parallels to Hitchcock's seminal "Lifeboat", against which Cronenberg acquits himself admirably. Though it must be said the confessional scene at the end, while nicely framed, is a bit on-the-nose.

As a writer, however, Cronenberg fails miserably. Adapting Don DeLillo's novel of the same name, he has a great deal to say about the distance between the rich and the poor and the sense of isolation that exists within a city, intentional and unintentional, striven for and missed, but the commentary is hackneyed and uninteresting. What could have been effectively done in a one-act is stretched thin and beaten to death. When the climax is finally reached, even a tour-de-force performance by Paul Giamatti ("The Ides of March") can't rise above the clumsy dialogue and the 90 minutes that have gone before it.

The upshot of seeing struggling actors in rickety ad-hoc theaters is that you can pretty easily sneak in the beverage (or other substance) of choice to get yourself into the head space to accept obscure as profound and impenetrable as insightful. It recommended that you find a way to do the same for "Cosmopolis".

What did you think?

Movie title Cosmopolis
Release year 2012
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary A David Cronenberg film that takes place entirely in a limo which, like the story, barely moves forward.
View all articles by Mark Grady
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