Basic Plot: Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is a self-destructive billionaire in New York, set in the year 2038. A recent financial tragedy has befallen his company and he meets with his wife, several advisors, and others to discuss it all the while he begins to internally fall apart.
I think David Cronenberg may be on coke. I don't mean this in a defamatory way, for Cronenberg did direct the acclaimed The Fly, but if there are two main effects of cocaine, it's that it's a physical stimulant and, as a result, it makes people talk incessantly. This is partially how Freud evolved the idea of Psychoanalysis: the concept that people simply talking about themselves can be therapeutic. Yes, Freud did coke. And after watching Cosmopolis I'm starting to think Cronenberg does too because of the sheer amount of people talking about themselves or about weightless, intangible, overly complicated, rambling ideas. However, the movie does not inherit the stimulant property of the drug. There is no motivation or urgency, no excitement or drama, so if I can try to describe the viewing experience of this movie in a sentence I would say that it's like being a room of people so coked up that they don't stop talking, yet they also took horse tranquilizers so they talk slowwwwwwwly and without emotion, and you sit, sober, babysitting them, waiting for your ride to show up so you can leave and grab a drink somewhere and hang out with people who are actually entertaining.
This movie is embarrassing. In my review of Road to Perdition I noted how I couldn't describe one scene of the movie without having to describe all of them because they were all superb. Cosmopolis is the reverse of that. Almost every scene is so god-awful, so devoid of interest or buildup, so pretentious and so fucking boring that going by scene by scene is pointless. It's like pawing through a lump of manure with your bare hands in the hopes that a sliver of gold will somehow pop up, but even if it does your hands are still going to be covered in shit.
Literally three minutes into this film I wanted to quit. And this is coming from someone who is extremely patient with films. It opens up with Packer (Pattinson) standing outside of a building in a suit and sunglasses, while his bodyguard stands behind him. The way they talk and the lines they deliver is so awkward I immediately burst out laughing. To a tee, it's exactly like those amateur movies that middle schoolers make about spies or bank robbers, wherein the voices are trying so hard to be cool or intense but just come off as silly. Pattinson's stance and demeanor are so stiff he looks like a prop for a low-budget play, and the bodyguard is speaking in the most bizarre accent I have ever heard. Listening to these two exchange serious top-secret style dialogue is painful to the point of abuse. For a moment, I thought the movie was being satirical. It couldn't be real. It just couldn't. There's no way it's expecting us to buy this as a real conversation. But tragically, the movie did expect us to buy it, and not just for the opening minutes, but for almost two hours.
The movie is comprised of various conversations Packer has with his advisors, his bodyguard, his wife, a barber, a psychopath, and random people. Yet not a single one is memorable in any way, and worse than that, with the exception of a couple actors, none of the lines are uttered with any form of personality. It is possible to have convoluted dialogue that is also fun to watch. All you need is for the characters to have some style or emotion when they speak. This worked for Brick and Inception. In Brick, for example, the dialogue was mostly complicated, neo-noir, dramatic stuff, yet each person speaking it did so in a different way. One character was seductive. Another was casual. Another was demented. And another was desperate. If you closed your eyes, you would instantly know who said what. Why is this important? Because if the dialogue is difficult to follow, you have to make us want to understand it. You have to tempt us to pay attention and even consider a second viewing. If we are interested in the characters, then we become curious to unravel what they say.
Not in Cosmopolis. Not only is the dialogue complex and rather stupid, but practically every line is spoken with such boredom I honestly don't know what kind of mood Cronenberg was going for. Did he want the movie to be boring? If the actors don't appear to give a damn, why should we? There is one female character who puts a little bit of effort in her lines, but then again she had just been running so I could be mistaking being breathless for acting. Paul Giamatti appears late in the film and he really brings some much needed intensity, even if he was over-acting a little. Granted, they had him do very cliché this-guy-is-crazy mannerisms, such as pacing back and forth, but it was still refreshing to see some life on the screen. But it's just not enough.
Ok Clay, you may say, this is a movie review, not an analysis of oratory skills. How was the plot? I would have to answer that question with another question. What plot? It's literally just a bunch of conversations Packer has with people about philosophy, life, and finance. It tries its damndest to sound intelligent and deep, but only spews out useless comparisons between various topics. I can handle a movie with a lot of talking, but none of the lines are worthy of examination, and I forgot nearly all of them by the time the movie ended. There are scenes here that come out of nowhere and do absolutely nothing to serve the story or the characters, such as the part where Packer learns a famous musician has died. He hugs his friend about it, and then we see a funeral procession while the musician's music plays in the background. But we have no clue who the hell this guy is, who Packer's friend is, and the music sucks. This scene is stupid and irrelevant, which fits because the entire movie is stupid and irrelevant. There's even a scene where Packer is talking to one of his advisors about finance while having his rectum examined. Oh joy.
Packer makes a huge shift in personality toward the end of the film, becoming violent and a bit deranged, but it means nothing because there was no lead up to it whatsoever. And the movie even gives this chum-bucket of a character a couple of freaking catchphrases. About five times in the movie he tells someone he's with that he's hungry or needs a haircut. He often says it after sex. I know it's supposed to show he's greedy and shallow, but these catchphrases are just lame and he says it with the same lifeless dialtone voice that he uses with almost every other sentence. Is this movie trying to be American Psycho? Please don't. Please....just don't bother.
To makes matters worse, the protagonist is beyond unlikable. He's a boring, stupid asshole and I could care less whether he lived or died in this film. Films have utilized this idea of an unsympathetic main character before but that's because the characters are at least entertaining to watch, and their rise or fall was dramatic and climatic. This guy is a walking coma, with less personality than an empty filing cabinet and hindered even further by the dead-eyed, piss-poor performance by Robert Pattinson.
Nothing in this film makes any sense. Nothing is memorable or profound in any way, and the acting is fucking atrocious. I have never, in my whole life, had such difficulty making it through a film. The experience was agonizing. It was real, arduous, physical pain, and by the time it had ended I did not receive that wave of accomplishment but instead an overwhelming cascade of pure rage. Almost two hours of my life were gone, dribbled away for the most inconsequential purpose in the universe next to alphabetizing a collection of novelty pens. Cosmopolis is the reason why filmgoers turn away from artsy films. This is what the public thinks independent movies are like. This burlap sack of puke-eating shit can in no way, shape, or form inspire or entertain anyone, and at its worst, is a detriment to the movie-going public who will be so pissed off after viewing it they may be tempted to throw more money at Michael Bay. I'd rather sprint buck naked through Old Bay coated razor wire than watch this again.
Cosmopolis: A movie that tries so hard to look smart, but forgets to be good.
I hate this film.
What Could Have Saved It: If they made a completely different movie.