Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cosmopolis (2012)

I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad idea to review Cosmopolis right after having finally overhauled this blog. It’s by no means a mainstream film, and my opinion is sort of controversial. Or maybe that’s a good thing. We’ll see.

So, Cosmopolis is the new film by David Cronenberg, a director known in the past for his visually abstract and disturbing arthouse horror films, and more recently for his pretty solid straight-up dramas. Cosmopolis is neither of those things, really. Robert Pattinson, (yes, Edward Cullen) plays Eric Packer, and unsubtly-named billionaire capitalist who decides to get a haircut. He’s advised by his security… advisor (I guess?) that the president is in town and a very famous hip-hop artist is having a funeral, and thus there will be enormous traffic jams. Driving to the other side of Manhattan, where the only adequate hairdresser is, would take the entire day. Packer doesn’t have a problem with this as he’s quite possibly the world’s biggest egomaniac and he will get what he damn-well fucking wants. Plus he seems to use his limousine as an office anyway.

That’s about where the story ends. Narrative is without a doubt not the focus in Cosmopolis. Each scene revolves around Packer talking with either one or two other people about, to be quite frank with you, nothing much. This is something many people had a big problem with. They found the film to be boring because they weren’t interested in the conversations these people were having. They don’t progress the story and they aren’t necessarily constructive in any way. Their only real purpose is character development and social commentary. But the reason I was constantly fascinated throughout this entire film wasn’t what people were saying, but rather how they were saying it. I have to admit to being pretty biased here, as I’m immensely interested in all things sociolinguistics and dialects. This film is set in the very-near future (I didn’t mention it earlier because it really is only evident in the dialogue), and it’s as if they created a futuristic New-Yorker dialect to write the script with. Not a single person talks like people currently do in the real world. They use the word “this” in uncommon contexts at least 5 times in every scene, and constantly construct sentences in untraditional and bizarre ways throughout the entire movie. This was easily my favourite thing about Cosmopolis, and without it I probably would have had a more socially acceptable overall opinion.

But what Cosmopolis is ultimately about is the self-orchestrated downfall of Eric Packer. We learn that he is tired with his superficial, unstimulating lifestyle and he begins to act masochistically and irrationally. In one scene he’s having sex with his bodyguard and he asks her to use her taser on him, for instance. This self-destructive behaviour eventually leads to the climax of the film; a 20 minute long scene that blends comedy, tension and banter in a marvellously effective way. The ending, however, doesn’t really seem to fit tonally with the rest of the film at all.

The film is also quite visually pleasing at times. Despite the fact that about 75% of the movie is shot in the interior of a limousine, the environment doesn’t get tiring. The limo looks seriously sci-fi with the blue glow of the numerous electronic devices built in to it. The cinematography isn’t consistently noticeable, but certainly has its moments. One particularly memorable shot showed us Packer and another character speaking calmly in the foreground inside the limousine, while outside the windows anarchist rioters shake and graffiti it.

A lot of people saw this film as a test to see whether Robert Pattinson could actually act or not. With the exception of a few lines that sounded like he was just reading the script, I’d say he did a commendable job. He’s ice-cold as shit but gives off an aura of destructiveness at the same time. The best performance, however, is easily by Paul Giamatti. While the vast majority of the cast plays similarly icy characters, Giamatti is given a very different archetype to play, and his appearance on the screen is a breath of fresh air after the fairly lengthy cast of super-wealthy experts-in-their-field.

People can call this movie boring all they want, but the simple fact of the matter is that I just wasn’t bored at all while watching it. Of course, I admit that the unusual language may have grabbed me more than it would most people. I don’t think it’s nearly as intellectually eloquent as some of its more passionate fans are claiming, but by no means do I think it’s a bad film. Maybe I’m just full of shit and I’ll go back and watch it again in five years and hate it just as much as most people do, but for now, I liked Cosmopolis quite a lot. And maybe, just maybe, some of you guys might too. Give it a try.

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