Tell Me What That Means- Or Don’t: A Review Of Cosmopolis (2012)

(Spoilers Ahead)

I know, I know, this review is over a month late. Why the delay? The short answer: exhaustion and a serious lack of resources and time.

But today that’s over. I did actually see Cosmopolis an hour or so ago. Is it what I expected it to be? Yeah, kind of. My only complaint is that it could have been a hell of a lot more ridiculous. I mean, the preview had a lot of WTF moments to begin with, like Robert Pattinson asking a topless chick to taser him and a giant rat attacking cars. I also heard there was going to be a scene where Pattinson gets pied. I supposed that the pie ambush in Water For Elephants just wasn’t enough for him.

But in all honesty, Cosmopolis is more than a succession of WTF moments. It’s a prolonged act of suicide, and in a way Pattinson couldn’t have been cast better. He plays 28-year-old billionaire Eric Packer like an apathetic, petulant child who simply wants it to be over already. It’s plain to see he’s absolutely done with living, and another character confirms this before the film is over: “You’re already dead. Centuries dead. Kings dead.”

The plot consists of Packer crossing town to get his hair cut. This is an act of self-hatred so intense it’s unbelievable. I would explain but believe me- the statement is accurate. In the meantime he does everything- literally everything– in his limo. He discusses business, drinks, has sex, pisses on the floor and gets a prostate exam that is uncomfortably long. There are pit stops along the way, mainly three meals with his new wife Elise (Sarah Gadon), who Packer has absolutely no connection with. His only interest in her is banging her senseless, which hasn’t happened yet. The thing is sex doesn’t seem necessary by then, since Packer has already had three sexual encounters with three different women. One more orgasm isn’t going to make him feel any better or solve anything.

Outside of his limo things are going absolutely apeshit, and Cosmopolis poses the idea that it’s because the middle and lower classes have had enough. They are breaking windows, defacing property, setting themselves on fire, murdering people on talk shows and throwing dead rats through restaurants. It’s the 99% vs. 1% deal, and a recurring phrase is “a specter is haunting the world.” The specter turns out to be Capitalism, literally spelling it out for the audience.

All in all this doesn’t effect Packer very much. In fact, he thoroughly enjoys watching the downfall but keeps that pleasure to himself. Even his confrontation with André Petrescu aka “The Pastry Assassin” (Mathieu Amalric) has little to no effect, although it’s one of the most absurd moments in the film. Apparently Petrescu has waited three years to pie Packer. Three years. That’s dedication.

But that’s the problem, the “no effect” thing. Packer hungers for effect because he hardly feels anything anymore (even worse, the reasons why are elusive). He begins to eliminate what is between him and “effect,” murdering his bodyguard and then putting himself in one dangerous situation after another. The only subject that makes him emotional is discussing death, which is how he has decided to end his day. Like I said, Packer is done. There is no meaning in living for him. There is no meaning in anyone else living. Exchanges are meaningless. Physical contact is a means to an end. There is no point in work or play.

In the end Packer only gets half a haircut, then gets dropped off in a terrible neighborhood and confronts an insane man who wants to murder him, Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti). When Levin doesn’t do the job fast enough, Packer decides to get things rolling:

By shooting himself in the hand. God, that bothered me.

In this final scene Packer and Levin discuss imperfection, the lopsidedness of things and how we ignore them. This probably applies to the disparity of power in our country, but in this case it comes back to Packer’s asymmetrical prostate. Apparently Levin has one too. “What does it mean?” Packer asks, to which Levin replies, “Nothing.” Then Levin shoots Packer in the head.

Cosmopolis reminds me of a line in Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible: “There are no good or bad deeds. Just deeds.” There is no morality within the film’s world and the characters and language that fill it are hard to discern. No one really connects. There is only one moment where it happens, when a barber and a driver exchange stories about being on the job. This suggests that there is human connection out there, but Packer won’t be having any part of it.

On second thought, perhaps Cosmopolis wasn’t that close to what I thought it would be. It was definitely a Cronenberg film, and to be honest I’ve appreciated his recent work. However this film stands apart from the others (I’m thinking A History Of Violence and Eastern Promises, for example). In spite of its brief flashes of violence it’s relatively bloodless, and its critique on power makes me think it’s just as bad as being powerless.

“I put out my hand and what do I feel?” a character says at one point. “I love information. This is our sweetness and light. It’s a fuckall wonder. And we have meaning in the world. People eat and sleep in the shadow of what we do. But at the same time, what?”

That’s just it: the message is unclear. All I know is that after watching this film I wouldn’t aspire to be the 1%. Not for a second.


2 thoughts on “Tell Me What That Means- Or Don’t: A Review Of Cosmopolis (2012)

  1. Well after that waste of celluloid, I highly recommend you watch joyeux noel, and see the other side of humanity.

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