Tuesday, September 18, 2012

COSMOPOLIS (2012)

Written & Directed by David Cronenberg


Where & When: Mann Chinese 6, Hollywood, CA. September 10, 2012  3:50PM



"Cosmopolis", David Cronenberg's confounding and plodding new film focuses on a day in the life of a highly stressed-out, obscenely wealthy one perecenter who feels his world crushing in on him due to a possible devastating, personal financial crisis, the rising revolt by the other ninety-nine percent and the potential threat by an unstable stalker.

Set in the not too distant future, Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), a twenty-something, Manhattan billionaire who is burdened with too much time and money on his hands, has one simple goal for the day; to get a haircut from a specific barber across town.What should have been a simple ride is now complicated due to a visit by the President which has caused traffic to grind down to a crawl. While this could become a potentially unbearable situation for the average citizen but Packer is fortunate enough to be able to travel in style in the back of his luxurious stretch limousine. This state of the art machine serves more than one purpose as it's his home away from home that is highly comfortable and lined with all of the conveniences of modern technology.

Throughout his slow drive, a bevy of employees, associates, family and friends arrive in the limo to discuss various events and situations in the life of Eric Packer. The visitors include his tech guy (Jay Baruchel), the art consultant (Juliette Binoche), the chief advisor (Samantha Morton), a rap performer (K'naan), Elise (Sarah Gadon), the new wife who refuses to have sex with her husband and the doctor who performs his daily physical all under the watchful eye of his head of security (Kevin Durand).

As Packer moves closer to his destination, he becomes more erratic and unstable, committing shocking acts of violence before finally confronting the man that has been making threats against him, Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti), a former disgruntled employee.

Mr. Cronenberg's work tend to be either readily accessible ("The Fly", "Eastern Promises", "A Dangerous Method") or highly enigmatic ("Naked Lunch",  "eXistenZ", "Spider") with very little that falls in between with the possible exception of his 1996 controversial film, "Crash". This clearly makes him one of the most consistently fascinating filmmakers working today. Over the course of his career, the writer/director has adapted several seemingly unfilmable novels in to films with wildly mixed results but "Cosmopolis", based on the novel by Don DeLillo, was clearly misguided. This timely story which touches on this country's current financial crisis had clear potential but the execution of the film is what mainly brings this work down. Allowing most of the action to remain in the confines of the limo without giving the characters much more to do than simply talk (and talk) grows monotonous quite quickly with the uninspired attempts at humor and the largely, incomprehensible dialogue not helping matters.

The other problem was the casting of Mr. Pattinson. What was needed was a performer with some heft who would be able to draw you in to this dense material and could portray the dark inner life of this complex and unappealing character but unfortunately, the young actor is not quite up to the challenge. Perhaps his work playing an undead vampire in the "Twilight" saga seemed like he could be the right man for the job but all he seemed to expertly provide is the lifeless dimension of this character (and quite well I should add) but not much else. It didn't seem to matter what he was saying, Pattinson delivered each sentence with the same flat, monotone voice as his pained face still gave no clear indication of what his character was actually feeling. The only performers who managed to make any real impression were the much too brief appearances by Ms Binoche and Ms Morton, two very appealing character actresses who each manage to bring a spark of much needed life to these bleak proceedings.

"Cosmopolis" is another surreal vision by a passionate filmmaker with a eye for challenging, unconventional stories. While this is quite admirable and greatly appreciated but regrettably, his latest work lacks a pulse. There is a plot that could be taken straight from today's headlines but the film lacks persuasive emotion or outrage and there are plenty of eloquent words spoken but not nearly enough feeling behind them.