Cosmopolis Directed by: David Cronenberg Cast: Robert Pattinson, Jay Baruchel, Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton Paul Giamatti Running Time: 1 hr 48 mins Rating: R Release Date: August 24, 2012 (Chicago)
PLOT: A young billionaire (Pattinson) journeys across a chaotic Manhattan in a stretch limo to get a haircut.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Come for the Cronenberg, stay for the Pattinson; it won't work for most the other way around.
As some might notice (it's easy to get lost in the brooding anti-groove of this film), the dialogue of Cosmopolis is often delivered with patchy rhythm. Leaving the audience to keep up with the mega concepts in a delivery akin to following flow-less Shakespeare, the ideas of Cosmopolis are individually incoherent, and at the same time hard to glue together. Instead, it is loud pieces that aim higher brow than American Psycho's satire, both related to its characters and their societies, but miss any point of leaving the audience with something of which can be carried out of the theater. Before the theater lights go back on, the film cuts to black, leaving audience members with only abstract memories of this surrealist nightmare.
Cronenberg isn't able to overcome his audience's desire to see him present sick spectacle, something he defeated better with the admittedly numb A Dangerous Method last year, a movie in which the conflict between the characters was so heady A&E crime shows could claim it almost didn't even happen. Cosmopolis plays like the urgent statement of a writer (or auteur, in Cronenberg's case) hoping to make an intellectual stand, especially from his own expectations. And yet, while leaving audiences (not to mention the teen mag junkies who will walk out of this one) drowning in this intellectual cesspool, they struggle to find something in the weird ways in which Samantha Morton speaks, or the confusing nature of the importance of a haircut. Cronenberg leaves his viewers, new and old, feeling short-changed that there weren't enough "great moments" (meaning head explosions or naked knife fights).
The freak show spectacle of Cosmopolis is Robert Pattinson, who stands out in this film before his slick character even mutters a word (who uses a strange pronoun, "We"). He is Cronenberg's replacement of the twisted science-fiction fare that will drive all Cronenberg fans to a movie about a rich asshole in a slow limo who wants a haircut. His nose sharper and weirder than ever with specific close-ups on his face as captured with a wide-angle lens, Pattinson the actor is the absurdity that makes Cosmopolis interesting, despite its blatant choice by the actor to be anything but. One can't help but imagine Cronenberg watching Pattinson's performances in the Twilight movies and seeing the potential in the actor's unique mug to play both handsome, and freakish.
The journey of Cosmopolis plays like a bizarre week in late night television, in which various characters pop into Pattinson's limo to have a large discussion about something that isn't mentioned afterward. The monologues are about money, time, rats, and paintings. The characters involve a young tech guy, a woman with a connection to a Rothko painting, a friend (?) played by Jay Baruchel, and more.
The best guest on Pattinson's wild road trip is Paul Giamatti's Benno Levin, making Giamatti look more worn down and loserish than he probably ever has in an extensive career of embodying the worn-down loser. Without spoiling any of the film's surprises (of which there are some, actually) eventually Pattinson's journey turns to an ugly night, which has him confronting someone who wants to be his Mark David Chapman ("I want to kill you because I want to count for something in my life," he mutters with a raggedy towel on his head). With Pattinson's masochistic character game for such dark shenanigans, the two have their own heady exchange of words, which plays out like the theater that Cosmopolis should have been (just as A Dangerous Method easily could have stayed a stage play, interestingly titled "The Talking Cure"). The chemistry between the two is indeed "good theater," as played out in long ugly shots. Yet like the rest of Cosmopolis, the atmosphere for which they are interacting holds more grit than the words of which they're babbling.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10