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Impenetrable city

Profile image for By Boo Allen / Film Critic
By Boo Allen / Film Critic

‘Cosmopolis’ is baffling even for a Cronenberg film

Faithful followers of Canadian director David Cronenberg have come to expect the weird (The Fly), and maybe even The Weird (Naked Lunch). Those who like their movies strange, obtuse and/or incomprehensible will not be disappointed in Cronenberg’s latest, Cosmopolis.

Everyone else? Not so much.

Of course, Cosmopolis is bizarre. But what is unexpected is its lack of clear narrative, made more insufferable by a stultifying atmosphere laden with a cast of unlikable characters uttering reams of nonsensical, irritatingly pretentious dialogue — no example will be given here because the plague infects the entire movie.

Cosmopolis is based on a novel by Don DeLillo, so the novelist can lay claim to some of the spoken inanities. But Cronenberg has taken DeLillo’s apparent ramblings and slowed them down, stuffing the often staccato deliveries into the mouths of sleepwalking characters who seem to have no purpose.

Judging by what little is comprehensible, perhaps DeLillo, and by default Cronenberg, had something to say about global finances, undefined moral hazards and the perfidy of relationships. But it’s hard to tell.

Current hot property Robert Pattinson plays Eric Packer, a wealthy 28-year-old in a stretch limousine rambling around Manhattan while events outside include a possible assassination on the U.S. president, a possible assassination on Packer, swarming hordes of anarchists, and various other diversions spoken of but not always seen.

Packer indulges in gibberishy financial dialogue with an aide, and then also finds time to have sex with several women (including Juliette Binoche and Samantha Morton), have a prostate exam, and then discuss possible routes across town to get a haircut.

Packer also seems to have a wife (Sarah Gadon), with whom he meets just long enough to have breakfast lunch and dinner, while they indulge in more cryptic conversations. She disappears about halfway through the film, and her place, along with many things, in this odd universe, is never explained.

Almost all of this early part of the film occurs in the claustrophobic limo, filmed by cinematographer Peter Suschitzky in a dreamlike haze that adds more to the film’s surreal atmospherics than to the disjointed narrative.

In the latter parts, Packer confronts some of his enemies, real and imagined, but by that time any encounters come off as artificially orchestrated.

After a while, Cosmopolis becomes so uninviting that maintaining interest becomes a chore and not a pleasure. And, despite what legions of ardent young females may believe, Robert Pattinson does not possess enough screen presence to carry a film for grown-ups, much less one that never warms up.




Rated R, 108 minutes.

Opens Friday at the Angelika Dallas and Plano.