Robert Pattinson Excels in Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis"

By Sean Burns

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 4 | Posted Aug. 22, 2012

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Grade: A

"You should have listened to your body,” murmurs Paul Giamatti during the freakazoid finale of David Cronenberg’s astonishing adaptation of Don DeLillo’s (ahem) difficult novel. In what amounts to a deliciously sick joke at the expense of Twi-hards everywhere, Robert Pattinson stars as Eric Packer, a zombified billionaire dulled to the world and cruising across the island of Manhattan at a glacial pace in a limousine that feels more like a cocoon. Thanks to some bad predictions regarding the Chinese yuan, Eric’s financial empire is disintegrating into ruins over the course of this no-good, very bad day. The president is in town, and there’s a celebrity funeral, leaving midtown traffic snarled at a standstill. Protesters are tearing up the streets, and an ominous security advisor informs us of a credible threat on our protagonist’s life. Yet, Eric still insists on going out and getting a haircut.


So dense you can hardly take it all in with just a single viewing, Cosmopolis is the first screenplay Cronenberg penned himself since 1999’s Existenz. Though most of the dialogue is almost verbatim from DeLillo’s book, it’s all imbued with the same dreamy, space-shot, mordantly funny deadpan of the director’s Crash and Naked Lunch—a very wry, exquisitely Canadian sense of impending doom. 


Cronenberg deliberately flattens out the film with Brechtian distancing devices. Eric’s limo is a massive soundstage (complete with both a retractable urinal and a throne) where the chaos of the outside world is glimpsed only through old-timey rear-projection shots in tinted windows. The digital cinematography compresses depth of field to a point where characters often look like cardboard cut-outs, and startling edits do little to clue us in as to whether supporting players are coming or going.


Cosmopolis is an ice-cold, woozy nightmare of a movie. The sleek limousine becomes a sort of purgatory, as Eric rides ever-forward at less than 5 mph toward ruin. He fucks, drinks, kills and even treats himself to an epically invasive prostate exam—any opportunity to jolt himself from this all-encompassing numbness, an emotional state at which Pattinson naturally excels. Great casting.


Like all the best Cronenberg pictures, Cosmopolis is a pitch-black comedy about man’s foolhardy attempt to impose systems of order on nature’s chaos. For all the slick, shiny surfaces and shimmering 1 percent luxuries, the key here is Eric’s “asymmetrical prostate,” which metaphorically stands in for the arbitrary randomness of an indifferent universe. He really should have listened to his body, and the irony is not lost on Cronenberg that the moral of this story can be found in Eric Packer’s asshole.

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1. Covington Beasley said... on Aug 22, 2012 at 11:05AM

“Cosmopolis is wretchedly deplorable decadent rubbish. Pattinson himself has wondered who would see the film other than perhaps to see him. Moreover, he has complained that he was made to feel like a male prostitute for the number of unscripted sex scenes he was suddenly without warning directed by Cronenberg to simulate.”

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2. JIll said... on Aug 22, 2012 at 01:57PM

“Whoever you are Covington Beasley stop posting on all these sites. You are embarrassing yourself and nothing you are saying is true. Just stop. You post these lies on every site and every review. Just stop. The movie is a success and Rob is very proud of it. Go away”

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3. Jill said... on Aug 22, 2012 at 02:18PM

“Covington Beasley is spreading these lies on every site and every review they can find to do with Rob. Her/His comments need to be deleted. They are outright fabrications. This movie is a success and Rob is very proud of it and is receiving great reviews.”

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4. Maureen darlo said... on Sep 1, 2012 at 12:56PM

“I have posted on various sites to urge people to (a) read Cosmopolis, at least once, and (b) go see the film for yourself and ignore reviews. You will love or hate it, it's a free country.
I absolutely loved the film, it's dark, quirky and difficult in places but interesting and ultimately left me feeling I had experienced something so good I wanted to see it again. The acting by all is excellent, superb casting. Ok, I am a Rob Pattinson fan, not just Twilight, but was not sure having read the book how he would be in this role. Well let me assure you he was amazing.
I have the DVD ordered and cannot wait to see this film again, and again!”

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