By Henry J. Fromage (Five Beers) –
Oh David Cronenberg of yore, where have ye gone? The supreme potentate of body horror branched out from the themes that established his reputation after 1999’s eXistenz, and while he’s delivered some quality films since then (Eastern Promises and Spider. A History of Violence and A Dangerous Method… not so much) they’ve lacked the visual flair and visceral punch of his earlier work.
Depending on how you categorize naked Viggo of course
Cosmopolis seemed to promise a bit of a return to that, with trailers hinting at startling, trippy setpieces and the crackling, fucked up sexuality of past efforts like Crash and Dead Ringers. Robert Pattinson stars as a billionaire going through a pretty terrible day- forced to face the loss of his fortune and his new wife and under threat of rioters and an assassination threat when all he really wants is to ride his giant limo across town and get a haircut. Oh, and fuck anything that moves.
Pattinson’s starting to build a James Spader-y deviant sex icon resume, from Bel Ami to (in a lesser extent) Water for Elephants, and he has just the right combination of bland handsomeness and nonchalance bordering on narcolepsy to really sell jaded, indifferent lovemaking.
This is his O-face
He’s not nearly as bad an actor as his reputation, and he turns in a pretty good performance here, delivering his lines like Johnny Depp doing Hunter S. Thompson at half-speed. A large cast plays off of him to varying degrees of success, and it should come as no surprise that Paul Giamatti steals the show when he finally shows up, channeling Harvey Pekar in the throes of a homicidal rage.
The script has its moments, and admittedly the whole metaphor of the rich man cruising through a world gone mad in his safe, contained bubble of a limousine is a nice one. And, of course, this is a Cronenberg film, meaning that there’s still plenty of sex and explicit violence to go around, even if it doesn’t reach the heights of his vintage stuff.
Stage plays and finely written literature often have a hurdle to jump when translated to films. Words that look good on paper or sound good in the more overtly artificial environment of the stage don’t always sound like words like someone would actually say. Cronenberg utterly fails to take author Don Delillo’s prose and turn it into something cinematic, and the result is a cold, inaccessible film full of pretentious-sounding dialogue as far removed from natural human speech as the screeching and chattering in Skrillex’s head is from anything resembling music.
Cronenberg also punts on his visuals, opting to shoot in ugly digital and follow dialogue with the camera in a style that reminded me of cheap soap operas more than anything else.
At one point a Sufi rap star Pattinson admires dies. The guy chosen to play him is K’naan, which from an acting standpoint isn’t a problem because all he has to do is be a corpse. However, his song is pretty terrible, probably because, A: aging white novelist Don Delillo helped write the lyrics, and B: the song is about the pain of living and the inevitability of death.
This is K’naan. That is not his forte.
I won’t spoil the ending, and I don’t know if it mirrors that of the novel, but I will tell you that it is incredibly unearned. It’s a cop-out, plain and simple.
David Cronenberg continues to underwhelm in this lifeless, mostly phoned-in adaptation. It would have been interesting to see what a hungrier director could have done with this material, someone like, say… a young David Cronenberg?
Take a Drink: any time a rat is referred to or shown
Take a Drink: whenever anyone talks in convoluted finance-speak
Take a Drink: anytime anyone has or refers to sex
Do a Shot: whenever Pattinson tells someone his prostate is asymmetrical