Friday, August 24, 2012

Review: Cosmopolis

I try hard to convince myself that movies are fictional stories played out by actors pretending to be different people than they are, but can't convince myself that Cosmopolis is anything other than unscripted documentary about the life of Robert Pattinson, shot by security cameras. Especially now that his possibly PR-concocted relationship with KStew is on the rocks.

When I imagine Pattinson's daily life, I picture him being driven around in a gadgeted-up stretch limo, being all rich, pompous and entitled, screwing everything that moves either inside the limo or out — whichever he prefers at the time. I also picture him waking up in a coffin, because the dude needs no makeup whatsoever to look exactly like a vampire, but they must have cut that part out of the movie to avoid confusion with the Twilight movies. Which I also picture as an accurate depiction of Pattinson's life.

That said, I'll play along and assume director David Cronenberg is on the level and that he actually directed this thing, and got the story from some book. If that's indeed the case, I have to credit Cronenberg for economically telling a riveting, passionate and unpredictable story mostly through the spoken word. Eighty or 90 percent of the movie takes place inside the limo, but the cramped world never seems constricting — much like Phone Booth (2002) or Tape (2001).

Pattinson gets dinged for his soulless, dead-eyed performances, but I don't hold them against him. Not only because he's a vampire but because according to the movie, he has sex so often that he's probably exhausted but there's never any time for a nap. His flat, clinical performance in Cosmpolis is perfect for the character, who has piled up his billions by looking at the world as a matrix logic puzzle, exploiting his angles to obliterate his competition and suck funds out of investment sectors, consequences by damned. To him, life and love are little more than games that he's long since mastered and gotten bored with. Even as the fluctuation of the Chinese currency plunders his fortune, or rumors of deadly activities outside the car threaten the well-being of himself and others, he stays plugged in and absent — a passenger rather than a driver of the charade that passes for his existence.

Pattinson's blank performance is a magnifying glass that amplifies the work of the supporting actors. Samantha Morton, Sarah Gadon, Juliette Binoche and Jay Baruchel color Pattinson's character with various levels of introspection, fear a loathing for their master/lover/secret or not-so-secret enemy. No actor's flame flickers brighter, though, than Paul Giamatti, whose unhinged ferocity ricochets harder off of Pattinson's ice.

As fine as the performances are, Cronenberg's machine gun dialogue is the main attraction. The film bulges with verbose, highbrow debates and vicious monologues smacked back and forth like tennis balls. The sheer amount of words spoken in the movie is staggering. Its script could probably crush someone's foot if dropped.

Cosmopolis is a heavy movie indeed, and one that demands multiple viewings. But surely no viewing would slap you so hard in the face and make you like it as much as the first one would.

Starring Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel and Paul Giamatti. Written and directed by David Cronenberg, based on DonDeLillo's novel. 108 minutes. Rated R.

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