Cosmopolis (2012), directed by David Cronenberg
They said Don DeLillo was unfilmable! They said it couldn’t be done!
The question now is should it be done?
I saw Cosmopolis on a Thursday night, downtown with three other people in the audience. Two of them, a couple, left about 10 minutes into it. Consider that with the fact that Robert Pattinson is one of the biggest movie stars in the world right now, because he plays a mean sparkly vampire. Actually part of me really hoped that a big group of giggly preteens would be in the theatre only knowing that Pattinson was in it. I wanted to see the look of utter confusion on their faces.
Now I’m a fan of Don DeLillo and a huge fan of David Cronenberg, so this seemed like a hell of a combo to me. Granted Cosmopolis is probably my least favourite DeLillo book out of those I’ve read and Cronenberg hasn’t exactly been blowing my mind (or any heads) lately, but still, my curiosity was piqued.
The film is exactly what I should have predicted it would be. Visually it’s lush and interesting, but while the detached, post-modern ramblings of DeLillo’s novels work on the page, they are hard to keep up with and stay interested in up on the screen. The film felt like more of an experiment than anything actually enjoyable or compelling to watch. Cronenberg’s sense of style and tone certainly drew me in and kept me somewhat engaged, as did the performances, but by the end I was glad it was over.
I have really been having trouble with films like this lately. Maybe I’m getting older and softer or something, but when it comes to these post-modern dissertations I end up feeling cold. I get what they’re doing, I studied DeLillo in university, I’m hip to the pm (post-modern, in non-existant slang), but I can’t say I much enjoy it on the screen. Or at least not with a film like this, that takes itself incredibly seriously and is really trying to drive home a POINT. What that POINT is is a little oblique, but damn does it ever want you to think about it.
For one thing, we get it right? When DeLillo wrote his novel it was before the recession and all that, so maybe painting the Wall Street elite as somehow something less than gods shook up the establishment a bit. Now, thanks to global financial meltdown, we all know those guys are a bunch of narcissistic, soulless creeps (warning: generalization). So for me to see the dark corners of a 28-year-old billionaire’s soul didn’t exactly blow my mind. And I know the film is also an indictment of those of us who hate those guys too, as seen with Paul Giamatti’s character, but by that time I had really lost interest.
The problem is that it’s just not that interesting to watch. The film takes place primarily in one location, the back of a limousine. Characters come and go, taking time to engage in abstract, rambling, emotionless conversations with Pattinson’s character. Pattinson himself stares dead eyed for the majority of the film. The whole thing is an exercise is passivity and apathy, an intended discomforting expose on the meaningless of money and technology.
And while I sympathize with all that, it sure is a bore to stare at for nearly two hours.
The film was not a total failure by any means. I enjoyed watching the way Cronenberg handled the material. Some of the supporting actors stuck out, such as Jay Baruchel and Sarah Gadon. I bet you could watch it seven times and notice new elements that you had missed with each watch. You could definitely write a university paper on it (I may have on the book…). There are some interesting ideas being batted around.
But does that really mean you want to watch it? Judging by the “crowd” I saw it with, no.
Cosmospolis is in theatres now.