Even Cronenberg’s more straightforward narratives—A History of Violence, Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method, among others—contain stylistically striking moments. Cosmopolis certainly has a selection of memorable scenes, though they drop into an episodic piece that has little gluing it together beyond its anchor, 28-year-old, Eric Packer. A billionaire asset manager, he’s a relatively comatose character, as played by the performance challenged Robert Pattinson who brings no charisma to the role.
In the opening minutes, Packer decides he needs a haircut. Trying to avoid travel difficulties caused by a simultaneous visit from the U.S. President, Eric begins a cross town odyssey, interrupted by breakfast and lunch, sexual interludes, a doctor’s exam, a street riot, several exchanges with his wife, and other assorted stops and starts.
As the central location that’s a refuge and a trap, Packer’s huge stretch limo glides surrealistically through New York streets, a heavy-handed symbol with terrible rear-screen projection. Within his eerie auto shell, Eric and his associates riff on the loss of hundreds of millions in currency (because of Packer’s misguided bets on the yuan) and on the nature of reason, respect, violence, the erotic, and visionary ideas. Without exploration, each idea evaporates before achieving more substance than a promise of insight, at best, or fortune cookie wisdom at worst.
As adapted by Cronenberg from Don DeLillo’s 2003 novel, Cosmopolis strains to be provocative but becomes annoying. What works on the page, with time for reflection, yields to static visuals. Howard Shore’s music does interpret moods well, as does the lighting. Several good actors add their talent to the mix, including Juliette Binoche, Mathieu Amairic, Samantha Morton and Paul Giamatti. They have thanklessly small roles though they shine.
To be fair, the intentionally dystopian world of Cosmopolis comes through clearly. It’s just too robotic to engage this viewer. At a Landmark Theatre.