By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
With robotic rhythms and dialogue that seems more fit for a didactic stage play than a film, we have to wonder what compelled filmmaker David Cronenberg to adapt yet one more greed-is-bad Wall Street saga to the screen.
Between slick features (Oliver Stone’s Wall Street times two, Margin Call, Arbitrage (debuted at Sundance 2012, scheduled for release this fall), as well as more documentaries than a burgeoning piggy bank, do we really need another look at the self-entitled one percent? With speeches taken word for word from the sterile, 2003 Don DeLillo tome of the same name, Cosmopolis dares us to enjoy its 108-minute crawl across a congested Manhattan, one solipsist syllable at a time.
We might enjoy a carjacking more.
Opening with a solitary line quoted on-screen, “A rat became the unit of currency,” we meet 28-year-old billionaire asset manager Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), who commands his kingdom from an ersatz throne that’s cushioned into a blindingly white stretch limousine. Referencing the fact that Marcel Proust lined his chambers with cork to keep external noise at bay, Packer similarly “prousts” his limo, hoping to shield himself against the noise pollution of New York City. But even he can’t completely ignore the raging armies of protestors who will eventually attack his office on wheels, tagging it with graffiti as he continues to travel across town via 47th Street, insistent on getting a haircut at one particular barber shop.
The film delivers a series of two-character scenes that predominantly take place inside the limo. There’s the nervous I.T. guy (Jay Baruchel), the hip computer whiz kid (Philip Nozuka), the cool art dealer/sometime lover (Juliette Binoche), the concerned Chief of Theory (Samantha Morton), the hyper Currency Analyst (Emily Hampshire) and the bodyguard who isn’t all that guarded with her body (Patricia McKenzie). But while each receives an individual audience with Packer, very little goes on … even the physical scenes with three of the women serve to merely underscore the bombast.
Kevin Durant as the all-knowing Security Officer thankfully mixes it up from time to time, constantly reminding Packer of the danger of continuing on his foolhardy mission, e.g., the President’s in town, the city is on alert, the streets are disappearing off the map, etc. Every so often Packer breaks precedent, leaving the limo on three different occasions to carry on unsatisfying conversations with his new wife Elise (Sarah Gadon). He’ll take her to different restaurants, trying to get her to eat but, food aside, it’s his sexual hunger that needs fueling. It seems Elise hasn’t as yet acquiesced. She waffles, saying “soon” … but we know that means he’s going to have to look elsewhere for physical satisfaction. (Having a three-peat of these dullard marital scenes proves excessive; considering Eric is a financial genius, couldn’t he have applied the time-is-money rule and opted for just one?)
Certain thematic concepts are mouthed repeatedly, such overrunning rats, the fear of obsolescence and aging, and the self-immolation of capitalism. While it’s interesting to note that DeLillo worked on this novel in 2000, years prior to any Occupy Wall Street rumblings, he obviously foresaw that the decades-long financial chicanery was ripe for some kind of dramatic reaction from the disenfranchised.
The sole exception to the stultifying screenery comes in the guise of a jubilant, dyed-blond cream pie attacker (a marvelous Mathieu Amalric), who brags of his conquests: He creamed Fidel six times and creamed the Sultan of Brunei in the bath.
Unfortunately, the leaden Eric is not a protagonist we can care about, seemingly more of a robotic thing on cruise-control than a human. Pattinson has a rough time of it, particularly since he has to appear in every frame of the movie. While the actor may be valiantly trying to please director Cronenberg — taking his performance down to the barest minimum — the film is so tedious that he suffers by association.
It’s interesting to note that coincidences abound for the two leads of the Twilight saga, that on-again, off-again tabloidal couple Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. Both appeared in films chosen for the main competition in Cannes last spring (Pattinson in Cosmopolis, Stewart in On the Road), directed by Cannes-beloved auteurs (Cronenberg and Walter Salles, respectively). The Twi-stars portray characters who are stuck in cars that narratively go nowhere, as each film is an adaptation of a literary work that does not translate well to screen. Finally, both movies reference Marcel Proust.
Gee … maybe some other director wants to make a third lifeless film about that.
Rating on a scale of 5 wheeler dealers: 1.5
Release date: August 17, 2012 (ltd.); Cannes debut May 25, 2012
Written and Directed by: David Cronenberg
Based on the novel by: Don DeLillo
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Mathieu Amalric, Jay Baruchel, Kevin Durand, K’Naan, Emily Hampshire, Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti
Running Time: 108 minutes