Say what, David?
The H-Bomb: 28-year-old Wall Street billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is in for one hell of a day. His latest investment proved to be a not so wise one, as he stands to lose his entire fortune, and his security detail has just informed him that a credible threat has been made against his life. Upon receiving all this wonderful news, Packer decides to do what anyone in his situation would… go across town for a haircut. The only hitch is, the U.S. President happens to be in town, and his visit is causing traffic jams all over the place.
This does nothing to sway Packer’s plan of action, as he absolutely must have his haircut from this very specific barber. So, climbing into the back of his super pimped-out stretch limousine, the inside of which looks like a space ship, Packer begins his surreal, daylong odyssey across NYC to the barbershop. Along the way, he encounters an eclectic mix of colleagues, acquaintances, and lovers- all played by a variety of familiar faces- as well as his ice queen of a wife (Sarah Gadon).
Most of these people appear abruptly inside his limo, with no explanation offered as to how they got there, and spout mouthfuls of Greek Salad about his shrinking fortune, the economy, the future, the past, technology, sex, philosophy, anti-capitalist protesters, and God only knows what else. For most of these incomprehensible, mind numbing exchanges, Edwar… ahem, Eric remains perched upon his thrown in the back of his space limo, sucking down cocktails, banging his mistress, and having his asymmetrical rectum examined by a visiting physician, all while he ponders one of the universe’s biggest mysteries: Where do limos go at night when they’re done driving people like him around?
Occasionally, Packer does leave the “safety” of his vehicle, to either meet his wife in some restaurant or another, or hook up with a hooker in some hotel. Occasionally he will venture out into the street, where people fire guns at him when they’re not inexplicably throwing pies in his face. What could all this possibly mean? I know not, I care not. I just wish he would get to the Goddamn barber’s already!
How one reacts to David Cronenberg’s latest film, Cosmopolis, based on Don DeLillo’s novel of the same name, will depend on what kind of person they are. The artsy-farts will praise it for being “ingeniously” indecipherable, while normal people will absolutely fucking hate it because it is so utterly indecipherable. How did I feel about Cosmopolis? Frankly, I felt like the guy from Scanners… ya know, the one whose head exploded. In other words, this indulgently talky head trip sent my brain into a complete and total meltdown, due to a massive overload of bullshit. For much of the picture, I had no clue what these weirdos were blathering about, and worse than that, I didn’t care enough to even try and keep up with it.
As an enormous fan of Cronenberg’s, particularly of his more “out there” films, I really hoped that Cosmopolis would be a return to form for him after A Dangerous Method, which was disappointingly flat. By about ten minutes in, all such hopes were dashed. That’s about how long it takes for this circle-jerk of suck to turn completely intolerable. If I were to liken Cosmopolis to any of Cronenberg’s past works, I would say that it’s a hybrid of Crash (1996) and Naked Lunch, which oddly enough are my two favorite Cronenberg films. From that, it would stand to reason that I would love Cosmopolis, right? Well, sometimes reality defies reason, as I did not like Cosmopolis… not one bit.
Now, I’ve already encountered some film snots out there who call this movie “brilliant,” and who claim that anyone who speaks ill of it just “didn’t get it.” You know what, fine, I didn’t fucking get it. Does that automatically make me stupid? Okay then, I’m stupid. So, with my stupidity firmly established, this film still sucks. Between Cronenberg and the other director named David who makes strange, abstract films, there have been plenty of movies that I absolutely loved, even though I didn’t entirely “get” them. I loved them because, while I didn’t necessarily understand everything, I still found them provocative, captivating, and intriguing. They made me want to keep watching, so I could ponder and try to decipher them.
Cosmopolis is not provocative, or captivating, or intriguing. Instead, it’s a tedious, hour and forty-something minute long parade of “people” (no one here is playing a human being, let’s be clear on that) spitting out a shit-load of stilted, wannabe philosophical drivel masquerading as social commentary about contemporary American society… at least that’s my best educated guess. It’s not at all stimulating or interesting, but merely pompous, pretentious, and dull. Worst of all, it comes off as insufferably smug, as everyone is way too pleased with themselves for how clever they seem to think they are. Sorry to break it to you, folks, but being incoherent does not make you clever… quite the opposite, in fact.
What passes for an actual plot in this poppycock is just pathetic. Random shit happening randomly for random reasons. Protesters fling dead rats around while chanting empty slogans, why? Packer gets a pie slammed into his face, why? Packer blows his security chief’s brains out, why? Why? Why? Why? Wish I could tell you. This whole fucking thing is less like genuine Cronenberg, and more like some film school freshman trying to be Cronenberg, just being weird for weirdness sake, while pretending to make a profound statement of some kind. The result is both sad and painful. Fucking Christ on his rubber cross did I loathe this bullshit movie!
Normally I would say at least the actors managed to somewhat salvage this worthless cock-cheese, but no… not really. This is meant to show us that Pattinson is a “real actor” and not just some pouty male model. Yeah, that didn’t happen. He’s still doing the Edward thing, except not emo so much as simply emotionless. I know, his pampered character is meant to be numb, detached, and bored with the world around him, but he just comes off as boring. The supporting cast, which includes Juliette Binoche, Mathieu Amalric, Jay Baruchel, and Samantha Morton, don’t fair much better, as they all basically get one scene each, where they spew out impenetrable gobbledygook. I just wanted them all to shut up and go away.
Of all the actors, the only one who really earns his payday is Paul Giamatti, who shows up late in the show as Packer’s would-be assassin. Basically, the last twenty minutes of the movie belong to him, he rocks it, and he almost brings this frozen corpse of a movie to life. His performance alone managed to raise my rating up by half a star… for whatever that’s worth.
On a technical level, Cosmopolis is an impeccably crafted picture. The cinematography, by regular Cronenberg crony Peter Suschitzky, is beautiful… perhaps his finest work, I would venture to say. He does an incredible job of painting with light and color, giving everything an appropriately heightened look, and the meticulously composed angles have a very Kubrickian vibe to them. I also like Howard Shore’s score for the film, and that giant rat marionette thing was fun to look at for the few seconds it was on screen… that about does it for the likes.
I know my art house street cred may take a hit for not liking Cosmopolis, but I gots to keep it real, I absolutely despised it on almost every conceivable level. (For the record, I gave The Tree of Life a positive review, and my favorite film is Blue Velvet, so I think my art house street cred is just fine.) I love the bulk of Cronenberg’s filmography, so this review was particularly difficult to write. Cosmopolis looked like it was going to be a welcome throwback to “Depraved” Cronenberg, but it just played like a pale imitation, instead. A damn boring one, at that. I know this once great director is getting up there in years, and that perhaps has caused him to lose a step. If Cosmopolis is really the best he can muster now, maybe it’s time for him to just hang it up for good.