Thursday, July 07, 2016

Cosmopolis (2012)

Film: Cosmopolis (2012)
Stars: Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton, Juliette Binoche, Jay Baruchel
Director: David Cronenberg
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

"Weird for the sake of weird" is something that I, as a filmgoer, am far more forgiving of than your average movie attendee.  I celebrate films that try to play with form and that are willing to go to different heights for a movie.  I do occasionally find them hard to grade (I'm still not sure if The Counselor was a good movie or not), but generally I try to at least see what the point of the weird was, because if there's a point or a larger purpose, I can get onboard with the movie.  Sadly for me and for my Thursday night, Cosmopolis is simply a film that's weird for the sake of being weird, rarely actually trying to make a strong statement that resonates outside of robotic, intense dialogue even though it has polished literary roots and a fine enough cast.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film, based on the novel by the acclaimed Don DeLillo, essentially follows Eric Packer (Pattinson), an obscenely wealthy but deeply neurotic hedge fund manager who spends most of his day in his state-of-the-art limousine.  We see Eric, recently married to the beautiful but largely uninterested Elise (Gadon), struggle with both his hypochondria (he literally gets a medical exam everyday, including a prostate exam that is both deeply disturbing and wildly erotic early in the picture), and his enormous sex drive, sleeping with multiple women and making sexual release a huge part of his day.  The film takes a turn late in the picture when Eric gets his inner Patrick Bateman on by randomly killing his head of security and then coming face-to-face with a man who has been threatening his life Benno Levin (Giamatti).  The movie's progress is steep, with him losing everything but still seemingly favorable to the life of Benno, and the film ends with Benno attempting to kill Eric, but we don't ever see if he pulls the trigger, and a series of Rothko paintings over the end credits in a callback to an earlier scene where Eric tries to buy the famed Rothko Chapel in Houston.

The film succeeds on occasion, it's worth noting.  Robert Pattinson's ability as an actor is definitely there (he's not Taylor Lautner) but he's not really as strong as he could be (he's not yet Kristen Stewart).  However, the role seems tailor-made for him, as few other people could play someone so deeply disturbed, but yet through money and unattainable beauty every person, including the audience, remains drawn to him even as he becomes a murderer and someone who is less and less concerned with his own welfare.  The other actors can sometimes play into the movie, particularly Juliette Binoche as a randy art dealer, seemingly screwing Eric not for the job but because he's actually good at sex, and Samantha Morton as an employee of Eric's who can command the screen just with that wonderfully firm voice.  Both Binoche and Morton are in the film only fleetingly, but they are great cameos and something the film could have used more of as it progressed down the rabbit hole.

The problem is that these few pluses don't make up for the myriad subtractions in the cast.  For starters, the dialogue, while clearly stylized to the point of incomprehension, borders that line between "a fascinating departure" and "how cool am I?" to wobbily and especially in the final showdown with Giamatti it gets far over the top, to the point where you almost wish it were a silent picture.  Cronenberg is a fascinating director when he wants to be, but I'm not sold yet that he's a great screenwriter, and that's true here, as the dialogue isn't quite sharp enough in its "autre" mode to actually be profound.  Combine that with the worst scenes of the film being toward the end (Paul Giamatti is one of my least favorite actors, and this is hardly his The Master moment of redemption as he hams it up and is actually playing a character that plays into all of his worst acting tics).  All-in-all, a boring movie that is interestingly shot and I truly wish he'd found a way to amp up the directorial flourishes, perhaps never actually leaving the limousine as the picture all falls apart when he takes away that insulation from a restless, disruptive outside world.

Those are my thoughts on this film, one I've wanted to see for a while and Netflix gave me a mailed reason this week.  How about you-are you a fan of Cosmopolis or the films of David Cronenberg?  Is there ever going to be a film of Paul Giamatti's where I actually love him in the role?  And Robert Pattinson-is he ever going to have an undisputed critical triumph?  Share your theories down below!

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