It must have seemed like solid math at the time: Cerebral director David Cronenberg (+) postmodernist writer Don DeLillo (x) ascendent movie star Robert Pattinson (=) edgy art film with box office potential.
Sometimes, the numbers just don't add up. Cronenberg's tedious and talky Cosmopolis, adapted from DeLillo's novel of the same name, is a real disaster. For long and frequent stretches, the film seems to forget it's a film at all. It plays like an audiobook at double speed, with torrential dialogue and nothing to look at.
The preternaturally handsome Pattinson helps a little in that regard, I guess. He plays billionaire Eric Packer, a 28-year-old power broker of information and money. Packer spends most of the movie inside his tricked-out limousine/office, which comes equipped with space age display screens, expensive vodka and a retractable toilet.
Packer has just lost his fortune while his limo is hung up in Manhattan traffic, thanks to some vaguely Occupy-style protestors and the funeral procession of a famous Sufi rapper. As his empire crumbles, Packer holds court with advisers and other visitors, and has sex with some of them. He disembarks a few times, to consult and have sex with others. He also meets up with his new bride, but she won't have sex with him.
That about sums up the action of the movie. The rest is dense, interminable dialogue as the limo crawls along. Dialogue may not even be the right word. It's more a series of cryptic, declarative sentences about … well, I don't know what. Some examples:
“Money has lost its narrative quality. Money makes time; it used to be the other way around.”
“The urge to destroy is a creative urge.”
“Dying is a scandal, but we all do it.”
“Everybody is ten seconds away from being rich.”
“I have a severe anxiety that my sex organ is receding into my abdomen.”
I realize it's unfair to list quotations like this out of context. But that's the thing — they're not out of context. They're stated just like that, sprinkled into rapid-fire exchanges that go nowhere at all.
Cosmopolis does have some interesting moments. Appearances by Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche and Samantha Morton lend occasional focus. I liked the bit about the voice-activated handguns. And the wordiness sometimes piles into interesting shapes about information sickness and pathological consumerism.
But there's no way into this thing. Pattinson, looking blank and queasy throughout, isn't up to the task of leading the audience through Cronenberg's chilly universe. And the ending is just more talk, only now everyone is pointing guns at one another.
I didn't buy into a word of this film, and there are a lot of them not to buy into. This stuff might work as a prose poem (or a Don DeLillo book). But it sure doesn't work as a movie.