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February 21, 2013


(2012, Dir. by David Cronenberg.)

Yeah, I'll admit it - I kind of put Cosmopolis on the back burner when it came out. Cronenberg's last film, A Dangerous Method, left me a little disappointed, but the main reason I ignored this movie was because it starred that Twilight guy. Look, I'm on the internet a ton and I hear people talk and I've picked up that it's not cool to like Twilight - which is great, because I've never given the series much thought - but I should have poo-pooed that bias and seen Cosmopolis in the first place. 

And so it came to pass that I was in the video store last weekend and looked up at this strange trailer that was playing on one of the TVs in the store and was instantly like "WHOA, what the frank is that crazy looking, good looking movie?"  And the answer was Cosmopolis. And I remembered how good Cronenberg can be when he's good. I'm not saying I made a beeline across the store, but I definitely made it a priority and didn't go home without it. 

(I'm also not gonna lie about one other thing - the moment in that trailer when i went from "I kinda wanna see that crazy looking, good looking movie." to "I GOTTA see that crazy looking, good looking movie!" was when the trailer showed the name of Kevin Durand, known forever to me as 'The Goonest Looking Guy in The World" as one of the stars. That guy is awesome.)

Which brings us to me actually watching Cosmopolis, an experience that quickly became a great one. I'm not necessarily sure I can tell you the movie is a great one - I saw it like four days ago and it's still rolling around my head and bouncing off of questions, usually without finding answers - but I can tell you that it works on a purely bizarre plane of cinema where nothing makes sense and every next scene is a mystery. The plot, in its basest form, follows millionaire businessman Eric Packer (played by Pattinson) who sets off across the city in his bright white limousine to get a haircut. Sounds like a boring plot, no? Well, you're in luck because the city in question is in an unpredictable state of political and financial turmoil, which means there's a metaphorical bullseye on the lead's head - which becomes literal when threats on his life are received by his chief of security (the awesome Durand, who looks as goon as ever, even in a suit) and riots break out throughout the city.

As Packer makes his trip across the city, perched in an eerily throne-like back seat and surrounded by a rotating troupe of associates, doctors, and prostitutes the film occasionally resembles an incoherent crackbaby parented by Ferris Bueller's Day Off and David Fincher's The Game.  Packer interacts with those around him using stunted means of communication, having incredibly personal dialogues with others while using as few words as possible.  We learn a lot about the man - about everything from his business empire to his marriage to his prostate - while never really getting too close to feel like he's much of a human.

As such, the pale and uncomfortable Pattinson is actually a perfect fit for the lead role. The actor seems to be very aware of himself in the role and never flinches despite the bizarre things going on.  Growing up around football coaches, one of the lessons that has always stuck with me was that a consistent commitment to the cause and a "buy in" to the goal at hand is often much more important than talent - and I feel like that's where Cronenberg and Pattinson were working here. I'm sure that Cronenberg - who has had films focused on talents like James Woods, Jeremy Irons, and Viggo Mortenson - could get almost any actor he wanted to play a lead that is on screen for nearly every minute of this film - but the marriage between he and Pattinson is the marriage that the film needed. It's gutsy casting, but I think it pays off.

The film also brings an all-star supporting cast to the table, even if most appear for only one sequence. Notable names like Juliette Binoche, Jay Baruchel, Samantha Morton and Paul Giamatti show up for a sequence each, and each brings something useful and interesting to the discussion.  One of the more attention grabbing segments features Emily Hampshire as a business associate who meets with Packer as he's also getting an exam from his doctor, and this early film segment might be the first real clue that this journey is going to go off the rails as the day goes on. The two people who show up alongside Pattinson most often in the film are Durand and Sarah Gadon, who might be the film's most fascinating mystery as Packer's new wife and the object of his desires. She is - not coincidentally - one of the few reasons he ever leaves the controlled environment of the limousine, and the cold of the character when interacting with the equally distant lead character really fits perfectly within the film's odd tone.

I'm not going to sit here and try to make sense of the bizarre film - on one hand it's quite straight forward, on the other it's batcrap insane - because that's a task for someone much smarter and more eloquent than I am. But I am going to recommend Cosmopolis to those who are interested in abstract cinema, because what Cronenberg has put together here is certainly the right kind of cinematic trip. There's some rust around the edges and the film never really becomes profound, but it's ambitious and different and (most importantly) interesting.  This isn't quite Cronenberg at his best, but it's a step in the right direction and a movie that is worth thinking about.


Dan O. said...

Good review Mike. This movie did nothing for me other than bore the utter lovin' hell out of me. R-Pats is okay, but that's not saying much at all.

: said...

I plan to give this one a chance eventually. I've tried twice, and both times I fell asleep (not the movie's fault -- both times I was already drifting off when I queued it up on Netflix). It's weird, and will probably get me flamed to Hell and back, but the Cronenberg movies I tend to like the most are his "most non-Cronenberg" movies (heh).

And yeah, great call on Durand. I've kinda liked that dude ever since seeing him in the remake of WALKING TALL with the Rock and in SHOOTING ACES. He was great (and, in the first case, oh-so-hateable) in both of those.