Geoff Pevere: Cosmopolis VS Teenage Girls
I doubt the summer, or maybe the entire year, will provide me with another movie experience quite like the one I had last night with Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg’s new adaptation of one of Don Dellillo’s least-admired novels.
The movie itself is a challenging piece of work: largely taking place in the back of a spacepod-like luxury limo conveying Robert Pattinson’s soulless Wall Street billionaire-bloodsucker to a haircut on the other side of a riot-stricken Manhattan (nicely and not in any way unobviously played by Toronto), it plays out as a series of largely deadpan, abstract-theoretical exchanges between Pattinson’s dead-eyed uber-broker and various people who are briefly along for the ride.
Some are there to warn him of an imminent attempt on his life, some to remind him that he’s about to go spectacularly broke and take a large chunk of collateral humanity with him, some to provide him with nookie-on-the-go, and a doctor even hops in for a proctological interlude.
As gorgeously rendered as the movie is — it has the pulsating sheen of something engorged with irradiated rot — and as peppered as it is with spurts of violence, sex and general ironic end-of-days weirdness, it’s not an easy movie. On the contrary, Cosmopolis is just as likely (and deliberately so) to make people wish they could roll out into the road as stick along for the ride. Everybody’s in some state of advanced zombie affectlessness (and none more so than the unwaveringly flatlining and utterly convincing Pattinson) and just about every single conversation is about the kind of stuff — techno-ethics, currency exchange, digital-era wealth re-distribution, godless postmodern existential despair — that not even characters in Don Delillo novels can talk about without sounding like dead voices cutting through the static of radios in cars stalled somewhere in the middle of the Mojave desert.
Which is to say that I found it completely absorbing and baffling in equal measure — my customary first-encounter response with Cronenberg — and walked away fully prepared to watch the thing at least twice again before even presuming to have any kind of comprehensive reading on the thing. (Or, for that matter, even coming up with a convincing pretense of a comprehensive reading. Whichever came first.) But these girls. Wow. I don’t think it’s in any way condescending or dismissive of me to say that I’ll bet most of them had never seen a Cronenberg movie before, and I don’t think it’s in any way especially outrageous to assume that most of them were there because the star of the movie is Robert Pattinson, who is also the star of the Twilight series of teen-vampire movies. Indeed, this is probably the reason why I was even watching Cosmopolis in a relatively busy downtown multiplex on a Tuesday night in the summer. If Pattinson hadn’t agreed to take the role of Eric in Cosmopolis after Colin Farrell turned it down, there’s probably no way a movie this stridently uncommercial and concertedly weird would have opened as widely as it did and as quickly following its premiere at the Cannes film festival. So I’ve got to tip my hat to the folks distributing Cosmopolis for getting the sucker out so fast and loud so quickly, because I’m guessing that by this time next week, once word has spread through the hyper-accelerated digital universe through which gut responses are so ubiquitously disseminated this days, Cosmopolis will be lucky to be drawing drowsy, over air-conditioned flies.
At that point, it will retreat to its proper status in popular culture: which is to say as a compelling and substantial work by one of the world’s greatest and most consistently provocative filmmakers, and to be judiciously re-watched and carefully re-considered as the commanding and highly debatable work of art that it is. This is what will happen to Cosmopolis sooner than later, and it will happen once all the teenagers have got word out that the movie, as one of the louder young patrons announced at the end of the screening I saw, “is the worst fucking movie like ever made.”
Here’s what happened: through the first half of the movie or so, the house was quiet. Then, right about the time the drive-through proctological procedure occurred, giggling began to be heard from various corners of the room. This caught on contagiously and spread like firecracker explosions for the duration of the movie, an impression that was merely enhanced by the growing number of cellphone screens suddenly flashing in the darkness, no doubt bearing instant message warnings of the pain and torture that will follow anyone who dares make the same mistake as the messenger did. By the end, as I said, the random pockets of dissatisfied gigglers had cohered into a kind of spontaneous anti-Cosmopolis movement, and heckles from one end of the theatre were being happily responded to from the other end.
I left quietly, not simply feeling vulnerably outnumbered but ultimately kind of grateful. Not only had I just seen a movie which I knew I was going to be exercising my brain on for some time to come, I had experienced something I probably never again will in my life: what happens when you mix David Cronenberg, Don Delillo, Robert Pattinson and the world’s population of teenage girls. That was a one time only experience, and I’m thoroughly grateful I had it.
– 30 –
Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Geoff Pevere’s column appears every second Friday. His Blessed Diversion network of pop culture sites — www.meanjustice.com, www.thebigshadow.com, www.rifffreeordie.com and www.directoryofintemperateenthusiasms.com — is now up and running, and his weekly pop culture column on CBC radio can be heard in most markets across the country on Friday afternoon. Follow him on Twitter: @GeoffPevere. Or not. It’s up to you.