Featured REVIEW: Larry Richman, @Larry411 Thoughts on ‘Cosmopolis’

Here’s a portion of Larry Richman’s @Larry411’s review of ‘Cosmopolis’. Please give his site a hit for the rest of the review.

Posted December 30, 2012 by Larry Richman
Cosmopolis is a highly stylized, visually complex movie that demands some humility on the part of the viewer. Go in with an arms crossed, “show me” attitude and you’re likely to tune out within the first 10 minutes. Be generous with your patience and be rewarded with writer/director David Cronenberg’s deliciously creative interpretation of the Don DeLillo novel so prescient of the events it portrays almost a decade after its publication.

As it is my policy to keep my reviews spoiler-free, especially with a film like this which is so dependent on suspension of disbelief and delightfully unexpected turns, it’s necessary for me to be a bit circumspect in my synopsis. Viewers who wish to know more about the plot can certainly find that information elsewhere.

Robert Pattinson portrays Eric Packer, 28, a ridiculously wealthy entrepreneur and modern-day Andrew Carnegie who trades in ideas instead of steel. Like many contemporary hedge fund managers, day traders, and consumers who constantly check the value of the dollar on their cellphones, his income comes from speculation — not much different than betting on which horse will come in first at Churchill Downs. Packer’s current obsession is the Chinese Yuan, the unit of currency expected to dominate world markets in the near future (it was changed from the Japanese Yen in DeLillo’s book — some creative license on Cronenberg’s part).Cosmopolis opens with him instructing bodyguard Torval (Kevin Durand) to usher him across town (New York, but it could be any metropolis) to get a haircut. With most scenes based on visitors entering the vehicle, it’s an inside-out take on the classic road movie that takes place in one 24-hour period.

Frustrated at his inability to get a handle on the Yuan’s odd elusive values, Packer brings in a succession of his firm’s top experts to advise him. His “office” is a white stretch limo, no different on the outside from the hundreds which roam the streets of New York, but quite unique for those lucky few invited to step inside where the enigmatic multi-millionaire holds court from his leather throne. On occasion, he steps out of his domain for some possible dalliances with Elise Shifrin (Sarah Gadon), his wife of 22 days. There’s much more here than meets the eye, though, and that cuts to the heart of what Cosmopolis is trying to say. The narrative appears to wander at the outset but crystallizes with chilling clarity. Its level of comprehension is directly proportional to the degree of openness with which the viewer approaches the material.

Despite the apparent gravitas of the story, Cosmopolis is a dark comedy. This may surprise some, in that, “Am I supposed to be laughing here?” sort of way. The veiled wit and literate sarcasm is apparent right from the start. Gallows humor pops out even at the most awkward moments. This follows seamlessly from DeLillo’s book to Cronenberg’s adaptation to the actors’ insightful interpretations of the material. They “got it.” Hopefully viewers will, as well.

[I’ve left out five paragraphs here, you should read this entire review; click on the source link below!]

The aforementioned Pattinson, Gadon, and Durand are the triumvirate which is a constant throughout most of the film. Constantly at Packer’s side, Torval is both protector and father figure to the affluent boy king. His almost-robotic yet endearing performance (praise here, not disdain) takes quite a bit of discipline, resulting in what may be the most sympathetic of the leads. Gadon also has the unenviable task of “dumbing down” for this role as a cold, unemotional trophy wife. Her talent and beauty shine through but only just enough to convince us of Packer’s decision to include her in his life. Finally, as the somewhat reluctant son around whom the rest of Packer’s solar system revolves, Pattinson’s delicately understated performance improves in inverse proportion to the state of Eric’s personality as it evolves. It’s an acquired taste. It means, by definition, the viewer needs to follow along to fully appreciate what he does here. Many won’t get that far, and that would be a shame. Few actors of his generation would be able to take on such a nuanced role and make it believable. The selection of Pattinson, in taking on the challenge of playing an uncharacteristically unsympathetic protagonist, was a coup for Cronenberg and the performance which helps make Cosmopolis a stunning creative accomplishment.

I generally do not reference other titles in my reviews, especially previous works of the filmmakers or cast, as it assumes the readers have seen them (not to mention it smacks of self-indulgence on the part of the writer). But it’s unlikely viewers will be unaware of the star’s longtime role as vampire Edward Cullen in The Twilight Saga’s five films. Comparisons will inevitably be made and some may go into Cosmopolis with preconceived notions about Pattinson’s talents (one way or the other). My recommendation is the same as for any movie. As difficult as it is, try to be objective. Wipe the slate clean. Give the filmmakers and cast a fair shot by setting aside expectations. You owe them that much. For those who do, and for those who don’t need to, you just may have a provocative experience that is all-too-rare in modern cinema. The deeper mysteriously metaphorical meanings of this movie are elusive yet undeniable. Cosmopolis is a film that has so much to say, on so many levels, that you’ll find yourself rewriting the story in your head long after the end credits have rolled. And that’s what art is all about. 

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