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Marshall Fine

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Movie Review: Cosmopolis

Posted: 08/13/2012 8:19 am

I rarely take notes during movies, but when the pretentious aphorisms started flying in David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis, I dove for my notebook.

I missed a few of the early ones, but managed to scribble down several of the ripest, most ridiculous pronouncements, starting with: "Life is too contemporary."

Or how about: "Money has lost its narrative quality. Money is talking to itself."

Or: "The present is hard to find. It's being sucked out of the world to make room for the future."

Or: "You do actually reek of sexual discharge."

OK, so that last one isn't actually an aphorism. But it's still pretty ridiculous.

These, no doubt, come from Don DeLillo's novel of the same name, which Cronenberg adapted. I'm not a huge fan of DeLillo's writing but I can't imagine that this slow, self-involved movie - starring the slow, self-involved Robert Pattinson - does it much justice.

The gimmick here is that young tycoon Eric Packer (Pattinson) wants a haircut and gets in his limo to cross Manhattan to get it. It's a gridlock-alert day - the president's in town, there are anarchists in the street and a rapper named Little Fez is having his funeral. But Packer wants to go to a specific barbershop, despite the warnings of immobility and security alerts from his chief protector, Torval (Kevin Durand).

As he inches through the streets, he holds a series of meetings in the limo, with worshipful people who tell him how brilliant he is (despite the fact that he's taking a bath on the yuan, which he shorted at the moment it started to rise). He gets a prostate exam from his doctor, has sex with two different women (who are not his stand-offish rich wife) and becomes the subject of a death threat (and a pie in the face - some security!).

Oh yeah, and people are waving dead rats as a form of protest. This is meant, apparently, to illustrate DeLillo's epigraph, from a poem by Zbigniew Herbert called "Report from the Besieged City," which says: "and a rat became the unit of currency." Pow - right in the kisser.

Through it all, Packer, played by the expressionless Pattinson, contemplates the meaning of money, time and the lint in his own navel. OK, not really - it just feels that way.

It is high-flown and pretentious hooey, a gimmick of a movie (look - an entire movie shot in a limo!), except, of course, he gets out of the limo from time to time. Even when he's in the limo, it's fairly obvious that he's sitting in a mocked-up limo interior on a soundstage somewhere, surrounded by green screens on which are being projected images of the street outside (and not very convincingly, at that).

As I've said whenever he strays outside the Twilight compound, Pattinson is a dull actor who projects no interior life or even the semblance of thought. That becomes obvious every time he's forced to share a scene with a real actor - like Samantha Morton or Paul Giamatti.

Still, who better to play a soulless one-percenter? Yet, in the company of actual actors, Pattinson is reduced to a piece of furniture, most of which displays more expressiveness than the immortal R-Patz.

As one would expect from Cronenberg, there are sudden moments of shocking violence to go with the moments of unsexy sex. None of it will distract you from the fact that this limo, like the whole enterprise titled Cosmopolis, is going nowhere.


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