It’s a tried and tested route for a teen idol to gain some indie cred – hook up with an edgy, indie director. The actor gets to give some spiel how he loved the director’s ‘early, more difficult films’, and the director gets instant funding for his pet project.
And so, R-Patz teams up Canadian psycho-sexual body horror pioneer David Cronenberg (he of The Fly, Naked Lunch, Eastern Promises and Crash) for an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s satirical sci-fi fable Cosmopolis. Pattinson plays Eric Packer, an arrogant, soulless billionaire executive, who rolls through a psuedo-future New York in a souped-up limo whilst being besieged by assassination attempts, anti-capitalist protesters and celebrity funerals, with the simple aim of getting a hair cut.
And Pattinson totally kills the role. He’s dismissive and elitist, yet also dripping with charisma and downright swagger. He manages to display an old, rumbling rage under surface, and he does all this barely moving a muscle. He is to evil understatement what Nic Cage is to shouty mega-acting. At the end of the film he sheds a single tear and it’s absolutely devastating.
It’s a shame the film really just isn’t very interesting.
DeLillo and Cronenberg have to of the most fervent imaginations of their respective fields, and you’d think that the two of them together would unleash a torrent of cynically nightmarish body-horror. But the central conceit of the film – that Packer is so disconnected from the crumbling world around him that he never leaves his limousine – means that we don’t actually get to see any of it. We get characters telling Packer about a whole host of financial meltdowns, political uprisings and international turmoil going on, but all we get to see is R-Patz getting a rectal exam in his (admittedly beautifully designed) limo. I get that this is the point, but it still doesn’t change the fact that a lot of the film isn’t very interesting.
The structure of the film basically consists of a variety of Packer’s acquaintances stepping into the limo to sermonise at him. Cronenberg’s collected a brilliant cast of cameos – Samantha Morton, Jay Baruchel, Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Matheiu Amalric – but all they really do is just read pages of DeLillo’s text to Pattinson. The dialogue is long, rambling and full of itself, and while it’s full of great ideas, it’s desperately, desperately in need of a trim.
There is plenty of good stuff in there. It’s a very timely film – it would be nice to think that some Twihards will come in just for R-Patz and leave turned on to the 99% and Occupy movements. It also sounds fantastic. Cronenberg’s regular collaborator Howard Shore turns in a great moody electronic score, as well as teaming up with Canadian indie-electro band Metric for a couple of tracks. And acting-wise, it is a tour de force.
I do think it may be a film that reveals itself much more on subsequent views, but first time round, it’s a sullen, self-important, kinda-dull mess.