Cosmopolis sits in an uncomfortable place in my mind. Before seeing it, the trailer made it look like a Sci Fi epic; full of action, suspense and dystopian visions of the future. When actually in the cinema I went from disappointment, to boredom, to entertaining myself with visions of a horribly taken aback gaggle of teenage girls in Twilight t-shirts there to innocently gaze upon Robert Pattinson – only to be met with visions of him having a prostate examination. My feelings towards the film have since softened, but that’s possibly due to Stockholm Syndrome. Cosmopolis held me hostage for close to two hours.
Directed by David Cronenberg, the story follows one day in the life of Eric Packer (Pattinson) a billionaire businessman at 28 and a newlywed in a sexless marriage. The majority of the film takes place in his high tech limousine as he slowly makes his way through a busy, rioting city on a single-minded quest to get a haircut.
The dialogue is both the best and worst thing about this film. It’s interesting and blunt but overwhelmingly dense. The scenes are broken up in to Packer’s interactions with different people – from his wife, head of security, business associates and lackeys to his recently deceased favourite rapper’s producer. Each has something to offer. Unfortunately this is through the medium of long, long monologues.
It’s ok at first. It gets you thinking about the nature of business, of power and taps in to the message underlying the worldwide Occupy protests. Packer is solidly in the 1%, and his conversations are about business, of life, of the future, of failing. We watch him lose everything: money, relationships, sanity, hair. It should be interesting, thought provoking even, but it all eventually began to blur in to one. It was like having a series of themed essays read aloud by various actors, and while some scenes were stand-out and memorable, ultimately my mind began to wander to the symbolism of his limousine and the progressive disappearance of bits of costume. Rule of thumb: if I start to think about what I’d write about a film in a school essay, it’s lost me.
Despite the film’s flaws, Pattinson was excellent in the role of Packer. His portrayal of a man losing grip on his own reality and sense of self was subtle and well executed. I forgot he was Cedric Diggory, and didn’t think once about people sparking in the sunlight. What I couldn’t forget was that I was watching a movie, a slow, slow moving movie, which to me is a critical part of enjoying a film. I felt every moment of Cosmopolis; I heard every sneeze from an audience member and noticed when people left for (a surprisingly large number of) bathroom breaks.
The film isn’t bad; it’s just tough to get through. I really want to like it, but it packs in so many ideas and so many words, one’s mind needs a break which never comes. Based off a book by Don LeLillo, I can’t help but feel it would have been better left in that format; the ideas presented in it are things you need to read in bursts, put down, then come back to later.
If Cosmopolis were a drink, it would be straight whisky. Only a small percentage of people would like it as it is, otherwise it is harsh, and a challenge to get through. It would be easier to knock back if cut with something trashy and bubbly. But, to do that would to be to corrupt the underlying ideal, which, I think would actually be worse.
In the end the film is somewhat ironically like its protagonist; cold, detached, and not easily accessible.