'Cosmopolis' falls short of expectations
By Suzie Setzler and Krysti Peacock
Based on the novel by Don Delillo and directed by David Cronenberg, "Cosmopolis" captures the dysfunctional and chaotic story of a man’s journey over the course of one day and his attempt to get a haircut at a barber shop that he frequented as a child. At the root of the havoc and mayhem are a cast of eccentric characters, interweaving as he loses nearly billions of his fortune by the hour in a financial mishap overseas. But it is more than his wealth that is exhausted throughout the day as he also loses his soul when he begins to unravel and succumb to his surroundings in a dangerous game of Russian roulette with himself; a tactic that proves more fruitful than he anticipates.
With high hopes of a film that was sure to be so overtly stylized and strikingly intelligent, we were giddy with anticipation of Cronenberg’s film adaptation of a visual depiction of deteriorating capitalism in the form of one man’s limo ride. How humorously fashionable such content can be in today’s political climate. But all that changed the minute the movie began.
Robert Pattinson plays billionaire Eric Packer, a man at the intro of the film who wants nothing more than to get a haircut on the other side of Manhattan. He advises his bodyguard of his relentless request, even though traffic is snarled due to a President’s caravan and a celebrity funeral procession that has ensued. Yet his unwavering determination seems to stem from some insatiable need to be at that barbershop ... and only that barbershop.
Throughout the day, he is met in his limo while sitting in traffic by various characters, each one bringing powerfully articulate conversations to the story and each one functioning in various roles, from lover, new wife and IT security, to doctor, financial advisers, teacher and music mogul friend. However, in the film’s attempt to enlighten the audience to the world in which Packer lives and how he interacts and views others, we become drowned by the directness of the monotonous exchange of dialogue. In other words, the conversations are so contrived in their attempt to be profound that they become instantly laughable and unmemorable. In their delivery, the characters just pound you with nonstop quintessential blabber and after an hour and 20 minutes of this constant drone, you just don’t care anymore about the movie or Packer’s attempt to get a haircut; nor do you sympathize with the super-odd performances by each sub-character.
It all becomes too much ... that is until the last 30 minutes or so of the movie. This is when the tone takes a different direction and becomes more dangerous and violent as Packer spirals out of control by nightfall and begins to self destruct. However, even in this climatic ending, villain Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti) just redirects the faster paced storyline right back to the monotonous overtly-stylized dialogue and again, we suffer through more trivial banter. In addition, we don’t understand why someone is even trying to kill Packer and how he towards the end of the film, unknowingly happens upon that person. There are cracks all over this expensive marble vase and as we said, we stopped asking.
What should be a satire of wealth is really lost in translation, literally. The characters are boring, the dialogue unworthy or enlightening, and the ending too far gone to recover. For us, it was simply a matter of not connecting with the characters and also not seeing them resemble anything human whatsoever. What alternate universe do these robotic and static exchange of 20-minute conversations per character happen? Remind us never to visit. In the end, we just didn’t enjoy the film or the two hours we lost trying to stay awake. It took everything in our willpower to remain seated to the end and that has not happened since we suffered through Malick’s “Tree of Life.” Neither sex nor violence kept us interested, and we couldn’t help but be reminded of other great films that captured a certain ominous dark luster without losing its identity in trying too hard to showcase its fabricated weakness. Films like “American Psycho” or “Drive” rather perform these functions quite well. In this case, Cronenberg let us down.
Running time 109 mins.
Cast and Credits:
Directed by David Cronenber
Robert Pattinson - Eric Packer
Sarah Gadon - Elise Shifrin, Packer’s wife
Kevin Durand - Torval
Paul Giamatti - Benno Levin
Jay Baruchel - Shiner
Juliette Binoche - Didi Fancher, Art consultant
Samantha Morton - Vija Kinsky, Chief advisor
Emily Hampshire - Jane Melman, Eric's chief of finance