Robert Pattinson plays Eric Packer, a man who wants to get a haircut. He's an extremely rich man (a multi-billionaire, in fact) and could just get someone to visit him at his office, but instead he insists on being driven around town in his stretch limo amidst the chaos that is a Presidential visit, an ongoing protest against capitalism and serious threats on his life. During his trip, he tries to convince his new wife (Sarah Gadon) that they should have some sex, he speaks to various members of his staff, engages in some energetic infidelity and views the turbulent events unfolding around him with a mixture of morbid fascination and cool disinterest.
Written and directed by David Cronenberg, based on the novel by Don DeLillo, this is a movie perhaps best described as Videodrome meets Wall Street with a white version of Driving Miss Daisy. Yes, I know that mixture sounds quite ridiculous, but it's appropriate. It's certainly not a film to watch if you need some great set-pieces and a bit of energy in each scene. This is almost completely cerebral, for better or worse, and demands patience from viewers. Patience that isn't really rewarded in the obvious fashion.
Pattinson is pretty good in the main role, there's a hint of Patrick Bateman about his character but also quite a Charles Foster Kane vibe. Details about how he amassed his personal wealth are teased out during conversations, but not enough to put together a complete picture. He seems like a potential philanthropist one minute and a complete sociopath the next, and Pattinson conveys every facet of his personality while also keeping hold of himself in a very stiff and controlled manner, most of the time. The other people that move in and out of the movie are strangely disconnected in a variety of ways, whether it's through their fleeting appearance and disappearance or the actual nature of the character (Gadon seems to move through the film without letting any of the world around her get within touching distance). Jay Baruchel, Juliette Binoche, Kevin Durand, Samantha Morton, Mathieu Amalric and Patricia McKenzie, plus quite a few others, all do well with their roles, even if they do often feel like characters taken directly from the Packer's overactive subconscious. Paul Giamatti gets to play someone more connected to the actual reality of everyday life than any of the other characters, and he puts in another fantastic performance.
Cronenberg seems to do what he can in this film to push people away. He certainly doesn't make it an easy film to enjoy, but it IS enjoyable. It's a lesser Cronenberg film, that's for sure, but it's still worth a watch if you're a fan of his work. The best, and most unexpected, thing about the film is the humour throughout, often subtle and sly but sometimes completely over the top and surreal. That humour hardwired to the intelligence running through the script allows Cosmopolis to become a bit of a paradox - a film that is hard enough to get through once but may well leave observant viewers wanting to rewatch it.
Equal parts amusing and irritating, this may be a film that you end up absolutely hating. It could also be one that you end up enjoying much more than I did.