Cerebrally unentertaining. That is how I would describe ‘Cosmopolis’, the new cinematic effort by David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises) starring Robert Pattinson. Much of it has to do with its inexhaustible stream of abstract sequences that amount to meaningless nothings. I found the film to be always saying too much, but never saying anything at all. It is banal and sufferingly boring. Cronenberg’s attempt to capture the zeitgeist of our times was commendable on a cerebral point of view, but he could have made more of a creative push to entertain us cinematically as well. Dry abstractions are abusive and should not have a place amongst a paying crowd. Give it away for free, as altruistic charity or something, but don’t make us pay for it. Some stories are assimilated better in books than movies, ‘Cosmopolis’ is one such case.
Based on the novel by Don DeLillo, this highly bombastic story is about a 28-year old financial whiz kid and billionaire asset manager named Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) who needs to go crosstown to get a haircut amidst the social chaos that is unfolding before his very eyes. He suffers from ennui and is looking for the meaning of his life. Having started the day with everything, believing he is the future, Packer’s perfectly ordered, doubt-free world is about to implode.
I think I’m a pretty intelligent guy and I like high concept film fare, but this movie was pontificating highfalutin trivialities. I’ve always felt that the original purpose of commercial film was to entertain. If you are a paying customer, you must be entertained. We can get into the subjectivity of how one perceives entertainment, but most directors are payed to provide audiences with swift and concise films that possess lively editing, fine acting and an engrossing story. Many of those elements don’t happen here and it leads to boredom and agitation, specially when you’re sitting down for close to two hours. Just ask the guy who was next to me who was so antsy that his restless body language made me more fidgety than what I already was.
Cronenberg isn’t the only director who tends to create slow paced, dialogue intense films. Just take a look at the worst offender in Jim Jarmusch’s ‘The Limits of Control’ or a close second in Sofia Coppola’s ‘Somewhere’. These are some examples of stoic torture. It’s the type of projects that seem aimless and provokes an internal feeling to just piercingly screech amongst the eternal and endless silence in the theater.
One can read the aforementioned argument and debate me that movies like this aren’t for everybody, but then why make them if only a fraction of people are going to enjoy it? How can one honestly invest for a modicum as opposed to the whole? Not good business and I believe that the box office will reflect that.
A good example of conveying existential and metaphysical topics while infusing humor and human elements that we can all identify with is Richard Linklater’s ‘Waking Life,’ one of my favorite films of all time. It’s about a man who shuffles through a lucid dream meeting various people and discussing the meanings and purposes of the universe. I can tell you it is better than ‘Cosmopolis’. Another piece of film that tackles the narrative of the human existence with diverting situational pep is ‘Biutiful’ by Alejandro González Iñárritu. You know you’re about to get clubbed with a philosophical message, but at least you’ll feel winded by the end from the journey you took.
On a bright note, Robert Pattinson continues his growth as an actor. ‘Water for Elephants’ set him apart from the teenage ‘Twilight’ series and gave him shadows of credibility. This movie keeps reinforcing the objective, albeit as another brooding character. If you look at almost all his movies, he plays Mr. Brood. It’s as if his range doesn’t allow for a different emotional state. But within that broodiness, he can be seen expanding his skill. Let’s wait for a body of work where he does a comedy (although many would categorize the Twilight Saga as comedy) or an adventure film so we can judge him appropriately.
If you’re a young Pattinson fan looking for a romantic drama where Pattinson swoons you over, boy are you in for a surprise. This is a young girl’s living nightmare as you’ll be offered enough apathetic dialogue to snore you into puberty.