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David Cronenberg and the art of moneymaking

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Cosmopolis” film review by Gary Chew

David Cronenberg is back with “Cosmopolis” and with Robert Pattinson,
who’s not a vampire but the character he plays is — metaphorically.

The “life blood” of Cosmopolis’ hero is very verdant.

The film opened Friday at the Tower Theater, Land Park Drive and Broadway,
Sacramento.

After reading the next three paragraphs, you may find yourself not
wanting to see “Cosmopolis,” but please read on through the rest of
the review before deciding.

Cronenberg’s script is a string of dark, philosophical conversations
that are stretched across the spine of a shaky, almost non-existent
plot that tells the tale of a young, nihilistic billionaire capitalist
struggling in his high-tech limo and office to get through the chaos
of a near-future New York City to get a haircut.

Really.

“Cosmopolis” is replete, front to back, with aphoristic exchanges
that, initially, seem to be non-sequiturs. But close listening should
help you get the hang of the verbal shortcuts the characters speak
back and forth. Doing so will help you realize how deeply cynical and
unsettling this movie is while you (may) chuckle at the absurdity that
surrounds the strange life and times of Eric Packer (Pattinson).

And… Oh, the people the very empty Eric meets on his way to the
barbershop, hampered by the traffic congestion and disorder in the
city that are at a high pitch because the President is in town. It’s
not clear whether the Commander-in-Chief is a Democrat or a
Republican. Cronenberg’s screenplay (from a novel by Don Delillo)
presents a too-far-into-the-abyss society for that to make a difference.

Really.

Through nearly the first two acts, Cronenberg has trained his cinematic
sights on what Samantha Morton’s “Vinja,” unabashedly refers to as:
The Art of Moneymaking. When Morton is gliding along in Eric’s stretch
limo, listen even more carefully. She’s been given many of the film’s best
lines.

Cronenberg’s tone is severe and mordantly comical.

One might draw the conclusion from most of what “Cosmopolis” suggests
that unfettered capitalism leads to madness, or as more specific lines in
the film say, “…to destroy is a creative act,”“…violence needs a
purpose,” or “…reputation rises on a word and slips on a syllable.”

My favorite was spoken by Shiner, Eric’s in-limo numbers guy (Jay Baruchel).

“Do you ever have the feeling you don’t know what’s going on?”

The anti-mega biz scenario goes on until one reaches the point he or
she might have to consider that all this nightmarish fantasy is but a
wet dream once had in the last century by Ayn Rand.

Following Cronenberg’s pummeling of big business, “Cosmopolis” loses
focus. I got the feeling that the director was tacking on stuff as the
film became more specifically about Eric and his past. It became even
more metaphorically opaque with bizarre twists to bring action into a
chatty film of well-written, intellectualizing banter that might make
some heads spin.

This is not a Hollywood kind of motion picture, if you know what I
mean. But have you ever seen a David Cronenberg movie that is?

I need to add here, though, that I’m glad there are filmmakers who
don’t create Hollywood kinds of motion pictures. The word “cosmopolis”
implies “diversity.” With David Cronenberg films we certainly get that
at the cinema.

Part of the cast was disappointing. Two well-knowns should have passed
on the casting call. Juliette Binoche is seen early as one of the women
who jumps aboard Eric’s office-on-wheels for a tryst on his leather seat
cushions. Binoche loses her American accent for a few phrases that put her
more closely to making love motoring down the Champs-Élyées than Park
Avenue.

Playing Benno, Paul Giamatti’s scene with Eric (closing the film) should
have been re-written, with Cronenberg striving for something that gets
closer to a payoff – with or without Giamatti, whom I usually appreciate
a lot as an actor.

Sarah Gadon, also in Cronenberg’s recent, “A Dangerous Method,” is seen
in “Cosmopolis” as Elise. Her character, which has plenty of pithy lines as
well, is Eric’s very rich “girlfriend” whom I found as they chat on, has just
recently married Packer, in a sort of: oh-by-the-way kind of fashion. Most of
their exchanges are less philosophical and more of the kind that indicate
Eric is trying to get his wife into bed.

I will spoil you with this: she doesn’t go for it.

LOL, sort of.

Copyright © 2012 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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