Robert Pattinson wants a haircut. And “Cosmopolis” takes us on a limo trip straight into the hell as he fights crosstown traffic to get one. Pattinson is a hedge fund billionaire who has surrounded himself with a suffocating bubble of ennui amidst global chaos. Love, passion, joy, and despair are just things that happen outside the windows of his limo where he seemingly conducts all his activity from business meetings to his regular doctor checkups.
Everyone in Cosmopolis speaks in monologues that are supposed to offer thought provoking commentary on the human condition. The pulpy dialogue by the usually reliable David Cronenberg instead sounds like a stupefyingly boring play that takes itself way way too seriously. Pattinson says things like “put a stick of gum in your mouth and try to not chew it” as though he were a Wall Street Buddha. He speaks in riddles offering wisdom to those who bother to decipher their deeper meaning. But Pattinson seems more like a bad actor who has no idea what he’s saying. He offers an imitation of a person – someone who does things because he saw someone else do them in a movie.
In the middle of Pattinson’s crosstown quest for a haircut, he’s putting his entire fortune at risk by betting big on the Chinese currency. Why? It’s never really explained other than he might be really mentally ill, a boy genius bent on financial suicide. Then, Paul Giamatti shows up as a former employee intent on putting him out of his finely tailored misery. When they finally have their big confrontation, they sit down for a thoughtful philosophical discussion and argue about who has worse body odor.
Characters must say the phrase “I know nothing of this” about two dozen times in this movie. Since much of what happens in “Cosmopolis” doesn’t make much sense, I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about it either.
“Seinfeld” was famously a show about nothing, but it knew you need tightly constructed plots and great performances to make “nothing” interesting. “Cosmopolis” is full of good looking people doing nothing, and boring the audience while doing it.