Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cosmopolis [2012]

MPAA (R)  Roger Ebert (2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing -
Roger Ebert's review -

Cosmopolis (screenplay and direction by David Cronenberg, based on the novel by Don DeLillo) is an eiree, and excruciatingly slow-moving film about "the day" a 20-something billionaire Wall Street magnate named Eric Parker (perfectly cast and played by Robert Pattinson of vampire Edward / Twilight Saga fame).  At the beginning of the film, we find Eric standing by his gigantic stretch limo presumably outside of his Manhattan office building deciding that he's going to "go for a haircut."

Most of the rest of the film takes place in the simultaneously coffin / casino like interior of his limo as the limo navigates the terribly slow moving traffic from his office to the barber shop in his old neighborhood to get his hair done.  Immediate parallels could be made to James Joyce's Ulysses [Amaz], Orson Welles' [IMDb] Citizen Kane (1941) [IMDb], and even Dante's "descent into Hell" in his Inferno.  For it's one heck of a slow-moving ride that Eric takes that day.

(SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO WOULDN'T WANT TO READ BEFORE-HAND WHAT ALL HAPPENS DURING ERIC'S LIMO TRIP TO THE BARBER).  During the course of his limo ride Eric (1) meets with various consultants who dutifully "wait on the curb" for "their master's limo" to pass by before entering its hallowed confines; (2) has the associate of his personal doctor give him his _daily_ physical complete with a prostrate exam (the real-time ultra-sound of which is dutifully displayed on the ghostly flatscreen monitors that grace much of the inside of the limo, even as Eric meets, face-to-face, with one of his consultants; (3) loses most of his fortune on an ill-conceived bet on the Chinese Yuan in the currency markets; (4) has sex twice, first with his French-accented 40-something "Mrs Robinson-like" longtime mistress (played by Juliette Binoche) who laughs at him for having apparently recently married his "cold fish" 20-something wife Elisa (played by Sarah Gadon) from an old moneyed patrician family, the second time with the wife of his trusted bodyguard (why? because he was bored? because he was miffed at his truly somewhat "cold fish" newly-wed wife? because he could? because he hated his trusted bodyguard precisely because he was so trustworthy? who knows? but was clear was that Eric didn't particularly care), (5) loses his wife, though not really for his beyond-obvious infidelites ("Eric, you smell like ...") but for the far more "unpardonable sin" of, well, losing his fortune in the course of the day...; (6) has the outside of his limo trashed by Anarchists (whose protests are partly responsible for the terrible traffic delays that Eric experiences that day); (7) gets "pied" by a Euro-loon "reality showman" who's "famous" for "pieing the rich and famous;" and (8) _possibly_ meets his death at the hands of a loser gunman (played masterfully by Paul Giamatti) who tells Eric that (a la JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald) the only way anyone was going to remember a loser like him would be if he killed someone as "important" as Eric.  And through the course of the day, the ghostly white complected Eric does not seem to care ... (END SPOILER ALERT).

The film (therefore) becomes a grand parable about a search for meaning.  Like the Buddha in his youth or the Biblical writer of Ecclesiastes/Qoheleth, Eric seemed to have it all, but none of it seemed to mean anything to him.  In Gospel terms, "What profit would it be to gain the whole world and yet lose one's eternal soul?" (Mark 8:36).  My sense is that Eric did not particularly feel that he even had one to lose...

It all thus makes for one heck of a movie IF one can bear its slow-moving pace and excruciatingly monotone dialog.  But then both the pace and the dialog were obviously intended to be that way.

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  1. Good review! It helps us to see what other people think about the movie, because from our seats we just couldn't care less about what ends up happening to Eric because the pace and dialogue was soooooo slow and uninteresting that we just ended up not caring. Which killed any chance at us liking this film whatsoever.

  2. Yup, Eric was portrayed as an utterly unsympathetic arguably "long dead" character who few should care about -- a real-life corporate "vampire" slowly traveling around New York in his giant coffin-like limo.

    But it's really more than that. The whole film is about a search for meaning. Eric clearly sees no meaning in his life. He stupidly loses his fortune during the course of the day. Then his wife. He has sex with two different women, the first a long-time (and older) lover of his who laughs at his life, the second the wife of his trusted bodyguard, who he has sex with apparently simply because he can. He eventually completely disposes of his trust bodyguard because he just doesn't give a damn. And then there's the "loser" Paul Giamatti character, who's convinced that somehow his own life will gain meaning if he puts a bullet in Eric's head. Yet, with or without money, power or women, Eric is _already dead_. Would anyone even care that Paul Giamatti's character "knocked him off"?

    SO WHAT ACTUALLY MEANS SOMETHING? That seems to me to be the question of the film: "Vanity of Vanities all things are Vanity..." (Ecclesiastes 1:2)