By Eleanor Ringel Cater
Just like Stella and her Groove, David Cronenberg’s got his crazy back. The Canadian director, best known for transgressive horror films like “The Fly” with Jeff Goldblum, has been keeping to the straight and narrow (relatively…) for the past few years with pictures like “A History of Violence, ” “Eastern Promises,” and, most recently, “A Dangerous Method.”
His newest picture, “Cosmopolis,” takes him back to the disquieting and mind-blowing movies that made him famous. Movies like “Scanners,” with its exploding heads and “Dead Ringers’ with twin gynecologists played by Jeremy Irons and “Videodrome” with its tummies-turned-video-players.
Based on a dystopian and strangely prescient 2003 novel by Don DeLillo, “Cosmopolis” seems set in a future that’s already too close for comfort. As riots explode in the streets of Manhattan (or so it seems) 28-year-old zillionaire Robert Pattinson cruises through the fuss unperturbed in a sleek limo that accommodates his every need.
And I mean every need.
One minute he’s having hot sex in the back seat. The next, he’s undergoing a proctology exam\ and having hot sex with someone else (simultaneously). An advisor (who looks more like a juiced-up drug dealer) gives him the word on the street (as in Wall Street). A prim-looking analyst (Samantha Morton) clicks through the numbers on the limo’s omnipresent computer screens.
The biggest name (for those of us twixt “Twilight” and “The Twilight Zone”) is probably Paul Giamatti. But even he can’t salvage the too-long finale in which he plays a nut case who intends to assassinate Pattinson.
Actually, it’s all more than a bit nutty, but Cronenberg presents “Cosmopolis” as if he were doing nothing more disturbing than a “Sex and the City” sequel (disturbing in a very different way). I’m not certain what his zillions of “Twilight” fans will think of their favorite vampire playing a completely different sort of bloodsucker, but the director doesn’t seem to care. Nor, for that matter, does his star who gives off such an ominous yet understated vibe that for a while I thought he was Joaquin Phoenix with heavy cosmetic work.
That’s what a lot of the film is like: riding around in a confined space with someone like Phoenix and no way out. Now, admittedly, that’s not everyone’s idea of a good time. But nobody said “Cosmopolis” ever intended to be a good time. Rather, it’s a wild ride through the filmmaker’s psyche filtered through the events (I suppose) laid out in DeLillo’s book.
What does it all mean? I have no idea and, as we used to say in the Kingdom of the Hippies, sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination. All Pattinson ever says he wants is a haircut.
He gets one — plus a whole lot more.