After last years rather restrained A Dangerous Method, Croneneberg’s latest film, Cosmopolis, returns to his older body of work more so than any of his last three efforts, all of which featured Viggo Mortensen in major roles. The film presents an unrestrained Cronenberg and has some wonderful elements and performances, but some parts just feel a bit… off.
Cosmopolis tells the story of an obscenely rich man, Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) as he journeys across Manhattan in his stretch limousine, looking to get a haircut. Of course, the haircut is secondary to the narrative, and what matters itself is the journey.
Packer is played surprisingly well by Pattinson, who is distancing himself away from his breakout franchise in a way that is interesting, to say the least. His performance is strong, as he brings great charisma to the role and a surprisingly strong screen presence. His movements are slow and methodical, his voice very matter of fact. He captures surprisingly well the essence of a character who has been perhaps brainwashed by capitalism.
On his odyssey, various supporting characters, played by the likes of Juliette Binoche and Paul Giamatti are shown with him, either as associates, relationships, or obstacles. While the ensemble is uniformly solid, they are, with one major exception, nothing to write home about. That exception is the aforementioned Giamatti who, in limited screen time, absolutely steals the entire film, delivering by far my favourite performance of his entire career. His words are dripping with venom, and his explosions of anger are utterly spellbinding. I simply couldn’t take my eyes off of him whenever he was on screen.
Like Croneneberg’s last film, Cosmopolis also contains an awful lot of dialogue. But the dialogue here is different, it is less cold and expository as it was in perhaps too many places during A Dangerous Method. Here, the dialogue is always shrouded in a layer of mystery, and it’s enigmatic nature makes it fascinating to a degree, although, ironically, you can’t help but wish a little more had been exposed during the film’s last act.
Because that leads to one of the major issues with the film – it seems to be almost ‘missing’ bits and pieces. A lot of location changes and character introductions seem to abrupt, and you can’t but wonder ‘why’. The issue is that the film’s almost episodic nature slightly weakens the narrative, and it seems like a problem that could have been so easily remedied too.
On the plus side, while Croneneberg’s writing seems lacking in places, his direction is assured and solid. His aforementioned return to some of the older themes of his work, his use of sex and violence is done very well. Detractors of his last film will likely appreciate this a great deal, as thematically and visually, his work here is almost something of a stylistic homecoming. And a damn fine one at that.
With Cosmopolis, Cronenberg returns to some of his more visceral and sexualised work, and he does so very well. The provocative auteur has once again created an intelligent and intriguing piece of cinema. Pattinson is starting to show that he’s much more than a sparkly, brooding eternal teen, delivering a strong performance here. It suffers from the almost episodic structure, which hampers the pace and narrative strength. Damn fine cinema, and it’s always good to see an intelligent film so close to the beginning of blockbuster season.