What Just Happened?

Walking into Cosmopolis, this writer had no idea what the latest movie from director David Cronenberg was about.  Walking out of Cosmopolis 108 minutes later, this writer still had no idea what the latest movie from director David Cronenberg was about.  Was it really happening?  Was it just a dream?  Were all of these characters real?  Is Robert Pattinson acting like that at his director’s instruction, or is he just a bad actor?  The movie doesn’t really explain anything, leaving that up to the audience.  Some may buy into it, but this writer did not.

On the surface, the plot seems extremely simple.  Pattinson plays Eric Packer, a finance billionaire who wakes up one day and decides that he needs a haircut.  Not willing to settle for any old barbershop, he climbs into the back of his stretch limo and embarks on a journey to the other side of town.  Unfortunately, he didn’t pick the best day to undertake such a journey as traffic is stunted by a presidential visit, a protest, and a popular rap artist’s funeral.  Also, just to make things a little more interesting, there is a threat on Eric’s life.

Binoche in CosmopolisFortunately, Eric does not have to take this long slow journey alone as there is a seemingly endless parade of people for him to chat with on the way.  Whether they are part of his financial team, his doctor, or his security personnel, Eric always seems to have a partner with whom he can exchange philosophical musings.  These characters are never fully explained and many of them just show up randomly in the car without any explanation as to how or when they were picked up.  For meals, Eric always finds himself in the company of his estranged wife, a woman whose facial expressions are as bland as his own.

It obviously is a trait of the character he is playing, but Pattinson’s singular expression and stilted dialogue throughout this movie are enough to drive the average moviegoer crazy.  He has one great moment when he scampers through an alley with a look of joy on his face and a skip in his step, looking like he was about to break into a number from West Side Story, but aside from that brief moment of joy, his character is just one heck of a downer.

The movie is essentially about his downward spiral.  Eric Packer is a character who became flush with wealth and success at a very young age and now, at 28, he has cracked.  His progressive breakdown is expressed through the characters that he interacts with as his journey continues, with the movie never quite explaining whether these are real people or just figments of Eric’s imagination.  The fact that his journey begins when he tells his security guard that “we need a haircut,” makes me think that it is the latter.

His breakdown is also demonstrated through his appearance.  After each encounter, his appearance becomes more disheveled.  It starts simply with the loss of his suit jacket and tie, but shortly thereafter escalates with a pie in the face and a half-finished haircut.

Cronenberg’s screenplay, based on a novel by Don DeLillo, attempts to turn Packer’s journey into darkness into some sort of philosophical study, but the endless musings by the characters drone on to the point that it makes paying attention a chore.  Furthermore, there is nothing remotely sympathetic about Packer and if you don’t care for the character, you aren’t going to care about what he is saying.

There were a few unexpected moments in Cosmopolis that made for an interesting moment here or there, but as a complete work it dragged on for much too long with too much to say.  I did like a rap song that was featured in the middle of the movie, but it is never a good sign when the most sympathetic character—the rap artist—is one who was dead throughout the entire movie.

Cosmopolis is rated R for “some strong sexual content including graphic nudity, violence and language.”  Graphic sex and graphic violence make this a definite R.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Cosmopolis.