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.
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After developing an addiction to the substance he uses to kill bugs, an exterminator accidentally murders his wife and becomes involved in a secret government plot being orchestrated by giant bugs in a port town in North Africa.
On the spur of the moment, twenty-eight year old Manhattan self-made multi-billionaire Eric Packer decides he wants to get a haircut from his regular and longtime barber across town, a difficult journey today if only because of the traffic gridlock from three high profile but vastly different events taking place in the borough, including a wandering anarchist protest, they who largely use dead rats as their symbol of protest. Through his trek, Eric, most taking place in his stretch limousine, meets with several business associates - some with as esoteric job titles as Head of Theory - and personal acquaintances, including his several week bride, Elise, a wealthy woman in her own right with who he still has a somewhat distant relationship if only because they don't really know each other. The start of Eric's day ends much differently than the end as his personal fortune largely hinges on external forces in relation to a speculative currency transaction, and as he learns that someone is... 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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Pre-credits title card: a rat became the unit of currency ZBIGNIEW HERBERT See more »
Dialogue-driven and emotionally empty, "Cosmpolis" requires an intense desire for philosophical discourse
Let's say that for every 10 "Twilight" fans, at least one is guaranteed to give "Cosmopolis" a go for no other reason than Robert Pattinson. And among those "Twilight" fans dumb enough to mindlessly try the film out, at least 9 of 10 will despise what they see.
David Cronenberg rather faithfully (from what I understand) adapts Don DeLillo's socio- economic commentary rolled into a film about young billionaire Eric Packer, who goes on a long limo ride across New York City for a haircut. What he fails to recognize, however, is that he was completely wasting his time; "Cosmopolis" has no business being a movie.
Cronenberg's clean and tight approach to the film can't be denied its technical kudos, but everything he films is emotionally anemic. "Cosmopolis" has no story; its characters are talking heads and its scenes just a collection of political gospel and esoteric ideologies.
Not an ounce of this film goes into giving its characters souls, and the more you hunt in search for just a sliver of one, the less attention you pay to the themes so fundamental to the film's core. If you can focus long enough in any given scene, you'll pick up some thought- provoking nuggets, but our natural curiosity as an audience is to look for the story behind the highbrow dialogue. Doing so, however, distracts from paying attention to all that can be praised about this material.
Therein lies the reason Cronenberg should have left the novel alone. Ideas like the ones presented in "Cosmopolis" deserve time to simmer. If I had read the book, I certainly would have taken the time to re-read portions of it to process the commentary on capitalism rather than thinking at multiple times throughout the film "oh, there are rats, that's a symbol for what this film is trying to say about capitalism!"
With the exception of Packer's newly made wife (Sarah Gadon), the cast of supporting characters suffers a similar fate in spite of some big names in Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti and Jay Baruchel. By the time you can begin to so much as chew on the ideas raised in one of any of the several scenes in which Packer meets with a new character in his limo and talks about big-time stuff, that character is gone from the film completely. You never get a moment to catch up so that you can be in step with what's going on.
Providing further distraction from understanding anything that's said in this movie is how Cronenberg as he always does charges this film with sexual and violent tension. He's not adding any that's not already in the story, but he accentuates it. Consequently, moments in the film will yank you out of your perpetual state of philosophical processing and snap you back into the moment of the film, usually a violent outburst or a quick cut to a sex scene. That's part of what makes Cronenberg a revered director, but in this case it's what makes "Cosmopolis" such a tough watch.
For those hoping to see what Pattinson does as a top-billed star given weighty material, "Cosmopolis" proves to be an unfair judge. He seems comfortable with the bizarre style of dialogue, but the character and the story are so empty that the film can hardly be considered a fair judgment of his would-be dramatic prowess.
As with any work of art steeped in its ideas, the more you sit with it or re-experience it, the more you're likely to warm up to it, and I have no reason to believe that will not be true of "Cosmopolis." At the same time, a majority of viewers will likely not be equipped with the experience of processing this language as the film necessitates, and the first run-through (obviously the most important) suffers drastically as a result.
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