Sorry to go all Jerry Seinfeld but what is the deal with these weird films set in the back of limo’s. First, there was nightmarish French freak-fest Holy Motors and now David Cronenberg’s bizarre dystopian limo odyssey Cosmopolis.
Set in a surreal, Kafkaesque New York, Cosmopolis sees Wall Street titan, Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) creeping through grid-locked traffic in his chauffeur-driven stretch limo as he frets about his health, the fortunes of the Yuan, a haircut appointment and the fact that someone is trying to kill him. Along the way he encounters and occasionally has sex with, a collection of oddballs (including Juliette Binoche) who spout their windy philosophies of life at him.
Cronenberg’s film is based on the acclaimed novel by Dom De Lillo and while the book’s ideas may have been fascinating (I should note I have not read the book), they don’t seem to have translated to the screen as this film sits somewhere between intriguing and mind-numbingly boring. Despite a couple of unexpected violent outbursts, this very stagey film is non-stop talk. The strange, stilted dialogue attempts profundity, critiquing capitalism, contemporary values and power in its various forms and while occasionally insightful, it mostly sounds like a mix of lame beat poetry and stoner talk. It doesn’t help that a lot of the dialogue is unintelligible.
The film’s unusual style and dialogue-heavy script certainly distinguish it from most of the formulaic fodder out there but that doesn’t necessarily make it interesting or worthy. Cosmopolis’ odd, anaesthetised tone and robotic performances quickly become tiresome and its obtuseness is soon irritating. Admittedly, Cronenberg does fashion a few startling shots and makes effective and creepy use of silence.
With the camera fixed on Pattinson, the film’s success or failure hinges largely on his performance. Unfortunately, he’s mostly dull and his expressions are so blank they’re reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite but without the laughs.
This film will no doubt find a small cult audience due to its distinctive visual style and what some may regard as profound insights into the human condition but I suspect most will find this a slow and torturous experience.
Nick’s rating: 2 stars.
Classification: MA 15+
Director(s): David Cronenberg.
Release date: 2 August 2012
Running time: 108 mins
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