He's set on getting his hair cut, and he's set on where to do it. He's a billionaire with a completely controlled life. The day is being spent in his limo on the way to the barber while the world around him is falling apart - economically, politically and eventually personally.
I went to watch this at a smaller cinema in town (there's actually just this one and a bigger one left) with my girlfriend this past weekend. This marks the first film I go to see this year, just like how "Melancholia" was the only one I saw last year. I'm a picky fucker - if I'm going there's usually a good reason. This reason being Robert Pattison... Right? I kid, I kid. David Cronenberg, of course! It wasn't until Preston asked me if I was gonna review it that the thought had even struck me. I'm not sure why, but I wasn't going to. But now I did! I'll be honest and say that David Cronenberg hasn't really fully delivered in the past couple of years, in my opinion. I have enjoyed the Viggo Mortensen films, but they were just not fully my cup of tea. I've been waiting for something different, more unique, from him. My gut said that "Cosmopolis" would be that film - and it was!
This is based on a book that I haven't, nor will I ever, read. I can't stress it enough, but I'm not a big reader and never have been. If it's any consolation, the movie seems like it would be a great book, and probably more appropriate as a book than as a movie. Unless the man behind the movie is David Cronenberg.
The set-up is extremely simple. Eric Packer is a filthy rich, young man. He lives a safe life with everything that comes with being rich - even daily medical check-ups. Why? Because people die. All the time. He works in economy, running a big currency company. This specific day that "Cosmopolis" is taking place, he has decided that he wants to get his hair cut, so he takes a ride in his limo to go there. It's the same barber he has always used, and the same that his father always used. But the ride there isn't going so smooth since the president is in town so roads are closed down, forcing them to ride AROUND town. Not only that, but there's a riot going on as well. They are the rat protesters, and Eric Packer is the last person they would want to see alive. His ride has many stops where he meets people that he's either fucking, working with, marrying, or who are mere coincidental road blocks.
What makes "Cosmopolis" unique is not the simple set-up above, it's much more than that. The movie manages to be both down-to-earth and completel other-wordly at the same time. It's taking place during one day but because it's so slow and dialogue heavy, it could just as well be a week. And not in a bad way - it's actually really intriguing and interesting to follow even though you won't understand everything that is being said. And that leads me to the characters and the dialogue. There's a ton of dialogue, but you'd have to really listen to understand anything. They're not delivering lines like you and me, but most of it is almost laid out like some political poetry. That's where I can imagine the book coming in more than anything. And it's such an important part of the movie.
The atmosphere, however, is everything. Everything in the movie works to give you a certain feeling, moreso than an understanding. The weird characters, the quick and strange dialogue, the world outside of the limo, the slowly growing reality within our lead. It's all working on making you feel completely lost and lonely. The movie IS in a near future, but it's also not taking it overboard so you'll still feel like you're in the present day. And that's why it's so interesting that the atmosphere is still feeling very post-apocalyptic. It's not that at all, but no doubt something is in the air, something is about to happen to the world. And that's where we are, we're in the beginning of a change. Both global and personal, because the change in our lead Eric Packer is bigger than anything. Especially to us, since we've spent an entire movie in a car with him.
The entire movie strives to make Eric Packer more human, or at least it forces him to step out of his bubble. At the end, that's literally what's happening before his big meeting with "Benno Levin", played by Paul Giamatti. You can find a lot in this movie regarding politics and economy, and you can draw a million parallels to where OUR world is at now and where it is going. The movie successfully presents a future we can relate to. But I have to go back to our lead character once again, as I feel his moral journey is bigger than the world around him. Maybe not literally bigger, but that's what we are focusing on. The fact that we catch the global change from just following him in the limo is just a testament to how carefully planned the movie is.
Okay, Eric Packer, played by Robert Pattison. I hate "Twilight" and most things associated with it as much as the next guy. Robert Pattison is included in that. I was angry when I once read he was cast in the remake/live-action adaption of "Akira" (whatever happened to that?), and whenever his face is on TV I switch the channel. But the moment I heard David Cronenberg cast him in his new film, I figured that the guy must have something of worth. Because that's how I roll - I really, really trust the filmmakers I respect. But that said, it took me a long time while watching the movie to completely forget who I was looking at. It didn't help that the movie requires for our characters and the dialogue to be a bit off, a bit peculiar. They come off as very controlled, almost robotic, to begin with. I think it took me about half the runtime to sink into it and fully accept Robert Pattison in the role, and to realize that maybe the actors aren't bad - they're made to act fucked up and stale. That said, Robert Pattison did a good job, but I also think anyone could tackle the role as long as they understood what David Cronenberg was doing.
If you at some point during the movie wanted to leave the cinema but decided to stay to see what happens, then it's likely you'll be the first person to swear once you leave the cinema in the end. The ending is not a new idea, it's been done a lot. Most of the time it doesn't work at all. Generally I see what they are getting at, but they didn't have the right movie for it. When "Cosmopolis" does it, it works. It SHOULD end like that, I honestly believe that. I wish I could get more into it, but I wouldn't want to spoil it.
Okay, so it took me a few days before I decided to review the movie. I think it's good for a movie like this to sink in first. Sometime in the middle of the movie I wasn't sure I liked it, and definitely didn't expect me to care enough to consider it for the Best of 2012 list. By the end of the movie I knew I liked the movie, but I wasn't completely convinced still. I loved the atmosphere, but at the same time I was feeling a bit "meh". As the days went by and I've thought about it a bit more, I realize that I actually REALLY liked it. And again, it's all because the atmosphere hooked me in as much as it did. And I'm glad I watched it on the big screen. Even though it's a "small" movie, set mostly in a limo and driven by dialogue, seeing it on the big screen helps in making you listen to every word. And then the atmosphere is always gonna be more powerful in a theater than a living room, although I prefer sitting at home. "Cosmopolis" is a great movie, and definitely a step in the direction I want David Cronenberg to go. It manages to be interesting through-out, has an atmosphere that'll swallow you, and also manages to bring out a few laughs. Intentionally, of course. A lot of people have been saying (probably in hopes to get quoted) that this film is Cronenberg moving the horror from body to mind, and while there is no REAL horror here, I definitely agree with their statement. It's a thinker that'll be drilling your mind, instead of making you squirm through mutations.