Rats, a limousine, a haircut...what does it all mean? I'm still trying to figure it out after watching David Cronenberg's 2012 film "Cosmopolis". This confounding story follows a wealthy young man named Eric Packer (played by Robert Pattinson) who sets out on a journey in his limo in order to get a haircut. As he makes his way through the city, the film muses on the decay of society, the instability of world finance, distrubition of wealth and other pressing issues. It's somewhat open to interpretation though, so you have to pay close attention to gather any meaning from it all.
Indeed, the characters in the film speak using abstract dialogue that everyone but the audience understands. Yes, there's an identifiable narrative at the heart of it, but its clouded by what seems like two hours of metaphors, where nobody directly says what they mean. As a result, the viewer is kept at arm's length for most of its run time. It's really a shame, since I was ready to engage with its philosophical and social discourse.
The acting doesn't help either, as much of Pattinson's line delivery is painfully stilted, ignoring any semblance of naturalistic human interaction. The supporting cast fares much better, but their acting skill can't override the boring script. The writing and to a certain extent, the direction, hamper the effectiveness of the actors. For example, I would be better able to go with the flow, if there was some early establishment that this was some alternate universe. It certainly felt that way, but Cronenberg failed to establish an adequate sense of time and place in the first act. Furthermore, many of Packer's actions just seem so illogical.
"Cosmopolis" isn't a complete disaster though. Cronenberg's commitment to the film's unique style and atmosphere is admirable and compelling. Additionally, Paul Giamatti enters the fray in the film's final moments and steals the show. He gives an impassioned performance that feels like it was plucked from a better movie. It's the promise of what could have been, as the material he's given seems like a much more fascinating film. Unfortunately, we're left with this.