Cosmopolis: A Movie as Current as it is Bewildering

I really should learn to stop watching trailers. After deciding to go to the press screening for Cronenberg’s new film Cosmopolis, I watched the trailer (because doing things in the proper order is for fools and communists) and was instantly thrown into an ire when it proclaimed itself “The first film about our new millennium”. I mean, there’s a little hubris and there’s giving 11 years of film making the finger.

But after watching the film I can almost, -almost- see what they were going for, just like I can almost, -almost- see what the damn movie was actually about.

David Cronenberg is an interesting oddity of a director, known as much for delivering perplexing, almost surrealist movies like Naked Lunch or (God help you) Existenz as he is for whip-smart, not at all completely insane thrillers like A History of Violence and Eastern Promises.

Cosmopolis seems almost like a return to his older surrealist ways, a film as visually peculiar as it is face-eatingly mad. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start with the easily-quantifiable stuff.

Robert Pattinson (hiss!) plays Eric Packer, a Billionaire asset manager who decides to get a haircut across town and embarks on a strange odyssey across New York, watching as his fortune crumbles due to a financial downturn.

That’s a really, really cut-down version of the plot, and as I’ll discuss later, just because that’s what happens in the movie doesn’t mean that’swhat it’s really about.

Pattinson does a surprisingly good job in the role, turning out a decent performance that I admittedly had to muscle past my natural male urge to curse the ground he walks on to recognize. But he’s vastly out-shined by his co-stars, which is no easy feat considering many of them only have one scene.

Local boy Jay Baruchel has a great turn as a high-strung techie, to say nothing of excellent performances by Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton and Emily Hampshire. And you caught me, I have no bloody clue what their characters actually do, they mostly just appear in the movie and talk incomprehensibly about finances. And bang Pattinson.

For me, the standout is Paul Giamatti as a man out to kill our broody hero, but do I really need to say that Paul Giamatti was excellent? It’s like saying the sun shines, grass grows or Paul Greengrass can’t keep a damn camera steady. We all know, no need to point it out.

The soundtrack is similarly excellent, and it came as no surprise that it was composed by Howard Shore and performed by Metric, a band whose lead singer I have an only slightly unhealthy fixation with.

That’s the easy stuff, now we’re getting into the harder to explain territory, starting with the fact that this movie if effing dense. And I don’t mean dense like a cement block or Kristen Stewart, I mean that this movie is so packed with symbolism and subtext that it’s a wonder it doesn’t end with the director coming out and saying “Try interpreting that, assholes”

Packer’s journey across New York is filled to the brim with imagery upon imagery, metaphor upon metaphor, touching on commerce, society, human interaction, revolution and mortality.

His conversations with his wife (Played by Sarah Gadon, one of the only performances I didn’t entirely care for) are stilted and strange, coming across as less like two people talking to each other as at each other. Arguably the only real conversation he has in the movie is with Giamatti in their scene together.

The imagery of the rat shows up numerous times linked to commerce. Extended periods of the movie are discussions or monologues on the state of society and finance in a modern world (not so much subtext there as just text). The point is, this movie has stuff to say.

And in saying so much, it will definitely alienate some viewers, and the often odd tone, strange imagery, deliberately stilted performances and overall “Cronenberg-ness” will probably confuse more people than it will enlighten. Hell, I watch movies for a living and I still didn’t understand most of this. Any Twi-hards looking to get a Pattinson fix from this thing will likely just have their head explode.

This isn’t a movie you come out of completely understanding, this is one you have to chew on for a while, one you have to re-watch and mull over. When the lights came on, I honestly had to just sit there and let my mind work for a few minutes, mostly trying to figure out if I even liked the damn thing.

Now, several days later, I can honestly say that I did. But it took some thinking. It took some considering. It’s a strange, bewildering journey of a movie that leaves you shaken, battered, confused and not quite sure if you’re satisfied, like a night of debauchery with a half-insane Swedish bodybuilder with a poor grasp of the English language and a mountain of daddy issues.

And really, what else can I say about the movie? Besides the fact that Robert Pattinson gets a rectal exam while talking about international commerce. Suck on that imagery, Twi-hards.

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