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Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager's day devolves into an odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart. Written by
I wanna a haircut.
The president's in town.
We don't care. We need a haircut. We need to go crosstown.
You will hit traffic that speaks in quarter inches.
Just so I know. Which president are we talking about?
United States. Barriers will be set up. Entire streets deleted from the map.
Show me my car.
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Unpredictable absurd comedy, perfect midnight movie
"And a rat became the unit of currency."
I loved it, but it won't be for everyone. This is most definitely a midnight movie. It's a challenging and dense movie, not much of a plot, with the focus on lots of talking and long shots. A neo noir in looks and feel about corporations, capitalism, the future, rats as currency, and a highly philosophical, self-destructive corporate analyst of some clandestine organization simply called "Complex".
From the first shot to the last, you're always following Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) in nearly every scene, so everything's seen from his perspective. It's mostly a single-location movie where Eric talks to random dudes related to his company or any woman in his white stretch cyber-pimped limo with an huge protest in the background. Oh man, it looks awesome and gets messed up over the course of the film. If you're a fan of David Mamet and Richard Linklater's works like Before Sunset, Waking Life, Glengarry Glen Ross, and especially Edmond (another great midnight neo- noir), you'll feel comfortable with the pacing. A lot of talking, one- takes, long takes, of people talking about very dense corporate details with not much sense that might go over your head in a first watch. It feels very much based off a play or novel where incredibly verbose characters pontificate about corporations, the world, and time in weirdly absurd conversations. But it's not a film where all those cinematic techniques are evident or shoved into your face, I just happened to notice he had been talking to a sweaty jogger of a mother who's also Eric's chief of finance while he had his prostate examined in his limo for 6 straight minutes.
Eric Packer is a cold, alienated, and highly self-destructive almost- sociopath who goes on about the philosophy of time, corporations, how the world works, violence, and any other topic. His character reminded me heavily of Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) in American Psycho, just without all the 90s pop culture and music references. The self-destructive and hedonistic urges of upper class socialites is evident in most Cronenberg movies, and Eric is no different. The dude's bored with the world, disillusioned, and is a thrill seeker just so he can feel real while he spends most of his time in a purgatory-like limo. Like most of these heavy talking movies, the plot is sparse and it's just Eric wants to get to a barber for a haircut which hints that it's an absurd satire/comedy. He's adamant of making the trek in his white cyber limo eternally stuck in New York traffic over a whole day that goes into night instead of just walking across the street which would only take 5 min. It's almost an absurd comedy at times, like having his prostate examined in his limo by his personal doctor while talking to someone, or he and Benno (Paul Giamatti) casually shooting up an apartment and at each other with futuristic guns in the weirdest Mexican standoff. How he's so stubborn about staying in his limo even though some big, distractive "imminent scenario" is about to happen. How funny it is people related to his Complex company just happen to see his limo and jump in for a long convo.
Robert Pattinson is a captivating actor to watch, and the camera is transfixed to his face even when it's cream-pied later on thanks to an anarchist protester or "pastry assassin" played by Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace, Diving Bell and the Butterfly). There's another famous French actor here with Juliette Binoche (Certified Copy, Three Colors: Blue) playing a highly sexual 41 year old "friend". This is a challenging role for Pattinson, not really for the character he plays of an upper class corporate man, but how he spars against highly experienced, well-known actors in very long single takes or one-shots. Actors just acting a lot in that stage-y way. These actors seem to come and go with not much of an arc between their characters except for a couple, as is the case with most of these heavy talking movies more focused on the journey (Waking Life, Edmond).
It's a bizarre movie, one that will require quite a few re-watches just to get the nuances of the incredibly dense and fast flowing conversations. Also, the rat protesters reminded me of eXistenZ, and the film works almost as a counter-point to that movie where instead of the anarchists, we're on the side of corporate.
I can see some people not liking the movie just because of the pacing and heavy talking nature of it, but being in love with such midnight stage-y movies like Edmond, or talky Richard Linklater films I was not as confused. The verbose conversations can only have been based off a novel. Samantha Morton as Eric's "Chief of Theory" talks about stuff you won't understand on first watch, and is emblematic of how the film's dialog gives more than you can handle, which is why I can see Cosmopolis being ripe for rewatchability. It's really an absurd comedy and satire at times with a pretty serious and cool ending scene with Paul Giamatti. People who were expecting Cronenberg's early body horror might be disappointed although there are some choice moments, but the film's definitely in his older speculative techno sci-fi style.
"My prostate's asymmetrical."
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