Movie Review: Cosmopolis

June 18, 2012 — 29 Comments

A Message: I walked out of this film. I went to a theatre, paid money to see it, sat down, got through the ads and trailers, the movie started, I got approximately one hour and ten minutes into it, I got up out of my seat and proceeded to walk home. There was about forty minutes left in the movie, maybe less, I’m not quite sure, but I didn’t care. It’s the first time in my life I’ve walked out of a movie just because it was bad. Now, let me tell you why…

Never have I seen a film by a major director so lazily directed as David Cronenberg‘s Cosmopolis. If even the director can’t be bothered to direct his movie, why on earth should I be bothered to watch it? Alas, the name Cronenberg drew me in, as did some vague positivity out of Cannes. When I say I have no idea where that positivity comes from, know I am not being hyperbolic in the slightest. Sometimes I just don’t like a movie that other people like. Often times I can understand their point of view in part. Other times I realize I’m simply not the target for a specific movie. With Cosmopolis, though, I just don’t get it. A film so badly made, enjoyed unironically? It’s beyond the scope of my comprehension.

First of all, let me break down what’s bad about the movie. I could just say all of it and leave it at that and feel pretty satisfied with the accuracy of my response, but I walked out of the film and didn’t see the resolution, so I don’t want to make claims I can’t 100% stand behind. So instead I’ll start with the most clearly bad thing about the movie. The script. It basically plays out as a series of conversations between Robert Pattinson and various passengers in his stretched limousine. A Kiarostami film this ain’t, though. The conversations follow no actual rhythm or logic. Half the time the characters are speaking past each other with declarative statements and bizarre questions on topics of free-market capitalism, sex, anarchism and more. It’s unending, or it feels that way. Now, if these conversations sounded at all human, like the characters had any investment, that might’ve helped. It also might’ve helped had the conversations been more naturally concrete instead of sounding like out of context passages taken from philosophy and economics textbooks. Worse still, the script builds no drama into the story except for a supposed threat to Pattinson’s life. These conversations effectively happen in a vacuum, with no motivation or reason and without ever saying anything remotely worth listening to.

Maybe that terrible script could have worked, though. I highly doubt it, but I could almost imagine a director taking a satirical approach to the material. Heightening the film stylistically and through that style transforming and extracting some meaning from the void. Nope. Apparently Cronenberg was content to graft style in the form of ugly, weird camera angles and horrific editing. As far as I can tell, the cinematographer was asleep during the making of the film, which reflects in the absolutely terrible lighting in the film. And then there’s the green screen. I couldn’t always discern what was green screen and what wasn’t (thanks in part to the terrible lighting), but was frequently distracted by the green on actors’ faces and the dreadful looking background in the limousine windows. This would all be somewhat forgivable from a debut feature by a director who didn’t know what he was doing, but from the guy responsible for movies with low budgets and heavy effects like The Brood and Videodrome, you’d think he’d pay a bit more attention to how the film looked.

And it’s not just the visual style of the film that’s off. The whole film feels lazily put together. The camera placements look bad, but the way they are positioned and cut look like no thought was put into anything. Another area where no thought was placed was in location. The film is set in New York, but filmed in Toronto. This is nothing new. As a Torontonian it’s usually pretty easy to tell, and that’s a little distracting, but also a little fun. Usually, films that do this at least attempt to make Toronto resemble New York, even if only a little. Cronenberg didn’t bother at all. Well, no, sorry, he did do one thing. He placed a New York City trash can in every shot where someone is outside in the open. Bam! New York! Does it matter than by shooting Union Station from that angle it doesn’t look anything like any corner of New York? Does it matter that there are TTC streetcars passing by in various shots? Does it matter that University Avenue looks about as far from a potential New York location as anything in the entire city? None of it matters, apparently. And you may think I’m being nitpicky, and that most audiences wouldn’t notice or care, well, that’s not true either. You see, Cosmopolis is very specifically set in New York and the world of high finance. The details of the location aren’t important, but the sense of setting sure as hell is. The film lacks believability and much of that comes from a very false-looking setting.

Finally, we have the place where all these problems coalesce: the acting. It’s bad, I mean really bad. So utterly bad. I’m sure it was a directorial decision to have most of the actors speak with little-to-no emotion, but the effect is to make the characters come off as robots. And not fun, warm, relatable robots. There is nothing engaging about it. There’s nothing to latch on to. The conversations become as vapid aurally as their text must read. Robert Pattinson is atrocious. More wooden even than his stint as Edward the Sparkly Vampire. I would gladly lay the blame for his performance at his feet alone, except that everyone is bad. Literally everyone. His wife, played by Sarah Gadon is worse than Pattinson. So is Kevin Durand. Jay Baruchel is in it, but it’s like he was plucked from a different movie entirely. A bigger source of amazement is that Samantha Morton and Juliette Binoche are sucked into the vortex. That’s right. Morton and Binoche are in this movie and deliver bad performances. This movie, Cosmopolis, it did that. I’m pretty sure that’s a punishable offense in more civilized countries.

Cosmopolis is a shameful example of a film. It’s a film that, from my vantage, has nothing at all going for it. David Cronenberg should feel terrible for having it in his filmography. He should feel as excruciated as I felt just by watching it. I didn’t see the whole film, but when I looked at my watch and saw that I had more than a third of the film left to go, the thought of spending another torturous minute trapped in the world of Cosmopolis seemed to me worse than death. I had no choice. I couldn’t take it. A film so badly conceived, so badly acted, so badly made, and with so little care at all put into the end product is not befitting the time it would take to watch it in its entirety. Quite frankly, it’s not befitting the time I invested in it to begin with, and certainly wasn’t worth the money I paid to see it. A true shame.

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29 responses to Movie Review: Cosmopolis

  1. 

    Correction… it’s Sarah Gadon.

  2. 

    Sorry, but I have to take issue with the fact that you opted to review the film even though you walked out of it. Your opinion is your opinion and seeing the film to the end might not have changed it. However, you are showing immense disrespect by posting opinions on an incomplete experience.

    Heck, I suffered through the entirety of Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie earlier this year, even though I felt the strong desire to walk out of that film on multiple occasions.

    In my opinion, the best parts of Cosmopolis come in the third act, especially Paul Giamatti’s sequence. However, you wouldn’t know that, because you thought it was easier to just walk out of the film and write a post complaining about the 3/4 of a film you did see.

    That said, I do look forward to doing an in-person debate at the next blogger meet-up. 😛

    • 

      Oh, understand, I have seriously never walked out on a movie before just for being bad. Never. Only times I’ve walked out were when something came up, or a couple times where I fell asleep from exhaustion and woke up not knowing what was going on in the movie.

      As to reviewing it despite walking out. I was very clear and up front about having walked out, even specifying how much of the movie I saw. If someone doesn’t want to take my opinion, or thinks it’s less worthy for not being based on the whole movie that’s perfectly fine. Heck, I don’t necessarily think my review is acceptable as a representation of the entire movie (I wouldn’t dare try to publish it in a newspaper or something.) But as a reflection of the absolutely dreadful 70 minutes I did see, I stand by this review. I also stand by the assumption, based on the quality of the script, acting and filmmaking, that any improvement in the final 40 minutes would not come close to being enjoyable for me, and even if it did, would not have been worth the 70 minutes I already witnessed.

      Also, it’s not that I thought it would be easier to walk out and write about it. I walked out because the movie was grating and utterly intolerable and showed no signs of changing. The review came after. I wasn’t thinking about writing a review while watching the movie, and the only reason I wrote one was as a way to rant because my feelings were so strong.

      • 

        I just can’t condone walking out of films, no matter what reason you give. It’s EXTREMELY disrespectful to the filmmakers and it’s a slap in the face to cinema in general. Let me put it this way, would you still have walked out of Cosmopolis if Cronenberg was sitting in the audience, or would have endured the whole film and made a properly formed opinion of it?

        • 

          On that front I disagree with you completely. I owe the filmmaker nothing except to attempt to watch their film in a condition they’d approved of (particularly aspect ratio). Everything else is up to me, including how long I watch it for. I prefer not to walk out, which is why I don’t and never have before. Not because it’s disrespectful but because I usually like to be able to say I saw the whole film before forming an opinion on its overall quality.

          But the idea that it’s disrespectful to the filmmaker and a slap in the face to cinema? Not at all. Making a terrible film is a slap in the face to cinema, and expecting me to pay money and take the time to sit through the entire debacle is more disrespectful to me as an audience member than anything else.

          If I was seeing Cosmopolis at TIFF with Cronenberg in attendance and could walk out without disturbing a whole row of people, I’d have zero qualms about leaving. Why waste my time? Especially after I’ve already wasted my money.

          • 

            I’ve always believed that there is no such thing as a “good film” or “bad film” and I try very hard to avoid using those terms. Everything’s an opinion and you either like it or you don’t.

            Just because you don’t like Comopolis doesn’t mean that others are going to agree. As, such it’s not really right to say that it’s a terrible film, because that’s only your opinion.

            OK, I’m tired and I’m starting to get philosophical.

            • 

              I’m not going to couch every statement I make about a film in qualifiers like “in my opinion” or “as I see it.” It’s a reasonable assumption that I’m speaking from a subjective point of view.

              If you want me to put it in a less declarative, objective fashion:

              David Cronenberg made a film that I despised, and I see no reason why it’d be disrespectful for me to continue having a terrible experience to sooth the ego of the director, who, in all likelihood, doesn’t know who I am or that I’m seeing it. In fact, I’d consider it more disrespectful, or at least contemptuous, of the audience to think that the art being watched is more important than the people watching it, and that the audience, including myself, should stick it through. It’s ignorant of the time and money required of the audience.

            • 

              Would you have the same problem with me walking out of the film version of Doom? You know, that really shitty video game movie? Or would that be disrespecting the guy who decided to put a first-person perspective sequence in the film – complete with a gun sticking out of the bottom of the screen and wavy arm motions – because, hey, he made a movie about a video game, and that’s how the game looks. I don’t think so. What about Uwe Boll? Is he worthy of respect? Should I have to sit through the entirety of Bloodrayne 9 if I want to have a valid opinion?

              I talked about The Tree of Life on my blog, and I only made it through 38 minutes of it. There was no point for me to continue, because the movie was so flawed on the most basic levels that it would only serve to piss me off more. Nothing constructive could come of it.

              • 

                Funny that you didn’t watch all of Tree of Life. I liked it more than you did, but even when I wasn’t liking it, I was fully on board for the visuals. Could watch that movie on a loop for hours just for the visuals.

        • 

          ” I just can’t condone walking out of films, ”

          Crap just like the film. This movie was torterous at best and I applaud the people who had the foresight to save themselves the misery by walking out of the showing i was in 20 minutes into the movie . They got to do something better with their Saturday evening , even though I walked out it was too late to do anything else.

  3. 

    Wow dude.. you didn’t even watched the whole movie and you decided to “review” it? I read the book before and to be honest I really loved the film, I thought it was a brave take on capitalism. Everything you whined on about is what I liked about it, I understand that it asks a little too much from the audience sometimes.. not everyone can grasp DeLillo’s exponential dialogues but the dialogues are the best part of it. It’s subtle satirical nature added with heavy matters like world economy was brilliant in my point of view. I thought the performances were absolutely fantastic.. I’m not a Rpattz fan, Now mind you, I’m not a member of his hate bandwagon either, yet strangely I thought he was perfect for his role, everyone was, especially Giamatti. Also liked the camera angles and visuals, it emphasized on the surreality of it. Since you missed the best part (climax), it’s pointless to discuss. Now I understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but you tried reviewing a film you didn’t even watch, so it’s a little hard to take your opinions seriously. It’s less of a review and more of a “Ah I didn’t get it.. so it’s STUPID AND PRETENTIOUS! WORST! WORST!! WORST!!!” I’m curious though, what were you expecting when you walked in the theater? some high-budget action flick that doesn’t require your brain to function?

    • 

      First of all, w/regards to not watching the whole thing, see my comments above replying to Sean.

      Second, as to missing the climax. I left just after Pattinson shoots a certain character, and if even that twist elicited nothing from me, I can feel assured that nothing about the rest of the film would intrigue me in the slightest. It lost me early on and just kept losing me and I wasn’t getting back on that train.

      Also, I think my problems with what I saw of the film go beyond “Ah I didn’t get it.” I went ahead and broke down all kinds of things that didn’t work about the film, from the direction, which had no sense of satire or comedy or playfulness whatsoever, to the acting, which was flat and unable to engage, to the poor use of setting, to the lazy cinematography and special effects. And in attacking the script I didn’t just say that I have no idea what the characters are saying, but that the way the conversations are written and structured makes them entirely uninteresting. They might be saying profound things, but they say it in a way that makes me not give a crap.

      Would that change if I saw some amazing ending? Nope. Even if the ending was amazing, and even if it made some great point, by that stage in the movie I just could not be made to care about anything going on up on that screen, and as I said to Sean, nothing would have made those 70 minutes I did watch worth it, and I wasn’t willing to risk a minute more of my time for the possibility of something good coming later.

      I would throw a bone and ask you to elaborate on what those conversations are about and what the point of the film’s themes are, but truthfully the movie broke me down so hard that I don’t even care to find out what it was trying to say. No, I didn’t get it, and if that’s the way Cronenberg wants to go about filming the thing, I don’t think I care to get it either.

  4. 

    There’s no good way out of this conversation. If you walked out, you should save the opinions for pub night. I’ve walked out of tons of movies in my time, and have learned through peril that once you’ve punched that eject button, there is literally no opinion you can have on the film that others will see as supportable. Besides, what more complete review is there for a film than simply, “I walked out?”

    • 

      Very true. I mostly just felt like ranting. Maybe people would be less annoyed if I just called it a Movie Rant in the title.

      I just find the idea that my opinions are automatically invalid a little bit overblown. They may be invalid in some people’s eyes. But my opinions could be invalid for loads of reasons. I’ve known certain people to watch movies on their computer in crap quality with the sound out of sync and the stream stopping to buffer every couple minutes and then not mention this at all in their review. I might consider their opinion of that film less reliable for my means if that’s the case than if they’d not liked it in a theatrical setting and simply walked out. Or heck, I may find somebody’s opinions useless just because I think they approach films in a way I have little interest in. I’m not going to really pay much credence to my dad’s opinion when he says A Serious Man is “a weird, stupid movie,” and I love the man!

      But yeah, this conversation about the validity of opinion is endless and personal and I can only make my case as to why I think my opinion still has some value. As you said, merely saying I walked out speaks volumes.

      One thing, though (and this isn’t specifically to you, Matt), I know people (including the famous incident with Roger Ebert) who have either not said in their review that they walked out, or left it to the end as a punch line. That I very much disagree with. Unless it’s made clear at the outset, a reader will assume that a reviewer has seen the entire film, and it’s dishonest to lead them on in that assumption. So to anyone who disagrees with me or not on the film, or anyone who considers my opinion less valid for having walked out, be aware that I was thinking specifically of your time and feelings when I wrote that note at the beginning outline that I had walked out and approximately how much of the film I’d seen. I was not trying to lead you on in any way.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment, Matt.

      • 

        Do not worry about it , your post is perfect. The pretentious mob have turned up it seems to scorn your lack of [ insert worldly impressive word here ]. I arrived here having watched many people leave the showing i was in before deciding to leave myself.Google Autosuggest also suggests ” walk out ” when you type the name of the movie in. ( Sic )

  5. 

    I’m pretty much in line with Brown – you’re not in the wrong for walking out, or even for writing about it after walking out. I might have just chosen a different label than “review”.

    Not sure if I’ll make it to the pub tonight, but if I get there we can hash it out. I wasn’t overly fussed about the movie, but I didn’t loathe it as much as you.

  6. 

    Very interesting. I wanted to see this before, but now I feel like I need to see it.

  7. 

    This just seems so bizarre to happen to someone like Cronenberg. I didn’t see his last film, but I still hold him in really high regard. What you’re saying about the technical aspects are what is confusing me the most.

    • 

      The weird part is, stylistically it still feels like Cronenberg, maybe with a little Lynch thrown in. But on a technical level it’s just so poor and lazy. So depressed.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. My Week in Staring at Screens: 06/24/2012 « justAtad - June 24, 2012

    […] Cosmopolis (Cinema) – A movie so bad I actually walked out. You can read about why in my “review’ over here. […]

  2. Does the Audience Owe a Movie Respect? « justAtad - July 16, 2012

    […] few weeks ago I reviewed Cosmopolis, which I walked out of. Already you can see where people might have gotten upset with me. Reviewing […]

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