Director: David Cronenberg
Staring: Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton, Sarah Gadon, Mathieu Amalric, Juliette Binoche, Kevin Durand
Plot:28 year old Billionaire asset manager Eric Packer (Pattinson) travels across New York in order via his impenetrable stretch limo to get a haircut at his childhood barber.
Review: This film took me awhile to get around to watching originally due to prolonged delays, thanks in part to the limited distribution as well as were I live on this rain soaked rock meaning that certain films never make it this far south, but still despite such issues I did finally get to see the latest film by director David Cronenberg, which after “A Dangerous Method” sees him back on more familiar ground as he returns with his adaptation of Don DeLillo’s titular novel.
Clearly trying to break away from the shiny vampire nonsense of the “Twilight” saga, Pattinson stars here in a role which was originally going to be played by Colin Farrell, until scheduling conflicts with the recent “Total Recall” remake forced him to drop out, leaving the role open for Patterison who continues here with his ongoing mission to try and find roles as far away from the role of Edward Cullen as possible, especially with this film being one of his more experimental performances, something I don’t think most of the Robert Pattinson fans (or most of the audience at the screening I attended) realised judging by how many people I saw walking out of this film, a scene all to reminiscent of those I saw while watching “Drive”. As such it is certainly worth noting that this is far from the most action packed of films, especially considering how it is a film driven by its dialogue rather than the events which happen within it’s runtime.
For myself DeLillo has always been an author I have found to be largely impenetrable, despite many of his books such as the 823 page epic “Underworld” being highly regarded, they have never truly managed to capture my interest so I was especially curious going into this film to see if this was down to how DeLillo presents his stories or if it was just the writing itself which I was having the problem with. Still seeing how Cronenberg had managed to adapt William Burroughs equally impenetrable “Naked Lunch” with shall we say interesting results, I was hopeful if anyone could make it work it would be him. So did he? Well the results are mixed to say the least for while the film looks absolutely stunning, the verbal masturbation of the film does ultimately mean that it never really goes beyond we world we see out of the windows of Packer’s limo, bar the occasional diversion to one of the numerous diners which Packer visits along on his journey. Still from this view point we witness civil unrests as anarchists take to the street, with the rat being used as their new symbol of revolt aswell as an elaborate funeral procession of Packer’s favourite rapper. Yet despite the chaos which erupts outside of his limo, this protective cocoon means that Packer remains in a constant state of calm, even as he fritters away his fortune on the rapidly declining currency known as the Chinese Yuan, all over the course of one day.
Packer’s limo is frequently shown as less his preferred mode of transport, but more the throne from which he controls his empire, especially when it is seemingly equipped for any need he might have, as he controls trades and monitors changes in the market via touch screens located in the backseats, while also using the limo as a base for the numerous meetings he holds with a variety of characters which form the bulk of the story, when he is not engaging in casual sex with one of his mistresses or even at one part having a prostate exam carried out. It is packers discussions with his personal bodyguard (Durand) though which keep us most informed about what is happening in the real world, something Packer seems overly detached from thanks to his position and status which his fortune has earned him, yet at the same time would appear to be suffocating him slowly, as he seeks random acts of violence such as randomly requesting that one of his mistresses tazer him so that he can feel something.
The cast are all good in their various roles, even if what they might be doing might be less than stimulating for some viewers, especially when so many characters speak so monotone, it can at times make it much of a slog to get through, especially when the film is driven by its dialogue. This will no doubt prove especially frustrating to the Pattinson fans, as he remains an actor severely in need of the right kind of mentor to hone his performances, for while watchable enough here it often feels that he is far from stretching himself, especially when Packer is seemingly on autopilot for the majority of the film. Still more bizarrely it is those within the cast playing potential threats to Packer that prove to the most interesting with Mathiew Amalric appearing as a serial custard pie thrower, whose random monologue was easily one of my favourite moments of the film, while Paul Giamatti’s stalker Benno makes for a slightly bewildering and unpredictable climax, especially when the film seemingly just ends rather than reaching any form of solid conclusion, for those who have stuck around this far, which as I looked around the theatre was probably around 5% of the audience that had started the film.
Perhaps if I wasn’t such a fan of Cronenberg’s work I might not have stuck this one out, as at it’s strongest it remains a curiosity, though unwitting it would seem with “Cosmopolis” Cronenberg, has finally given us a companion piece to Richard Kelly’s underrated “Southland Tales”, whose randomness also baffled many who actually saw it, while strangely charming some like myself something I was hoping for here, yet like DeLillo’s books it frequently seems to get caught up with how clever its writing is, that it forgets such things such as emotional dialogue which is honestly were the main fault of the film lies. Perhaps this was intentional with some highbrow literacy reason which certainly went over my head, but it is at the same time only further credit that Cronenberg is still making films the way he wants to, as shown by his fierce determination to provide as true an adaptation as possible here, while no doubt creating a film which will be pondered over like his adaptation of “Naked Lunch” as a strange yet occasionally wonderful curiosity, but be warned that this is one film which is not for everyone and perhaps only the few.