It’s one of the most anticipated films at the Cannes Film Festival this year. And today, the metaphorical limo in town belongs to Robert Pattinson, leading man in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis.
Smiling broadly at a morning photo call, Pattinson and co-stars Emily Hampshire, Sarah Gadon, Paul Giamatti, author Don DeLillo, producers Paulo Branco and Martin Katz -and, of course – Cronenberg, looked more than ready for a day of pressers and the red carpet premiere to come.
A early press screening was packed to the rafters, Film Festival News tweeting “Cosmopolis has the most buzz & people hunting for tickets I’ve seen/heard for any one film at [Cannes] this year”.
But, of course, the biggest question was: what did the critics make of it? As Jonathan Romney put it, “will it be a joyride or will we wish Robert Pattinson had taken the subway?”
While mostly positive reviews have surfaced from several European magazines in the last few weeks, today is the acid test. Festival favorites for the Palme d’Or (so far) – Amour, Rust and Bone, Beyond The Hills, The Hunt and In The Fog, with the exception of Holy Motors – have been richly, emotional films about personally, tortuous circumstances.
Cosmopolis - with its grand themes of death, capitalism, emotional dysfunction, technology at the expense of relationship, sex, time, power, powerlessness and global chaos – takes a much more clinical look at the human condition. In a world where materialism and psychosis are personified by a young billionaire’s surreal, 24 hour descent into an imploding Manhattan: How would that play?
Well, reactions have been something of a revelation. Working negative to positive, here’s a snapshot:
The title of Richard Corliss’s curiously personalized Time Entertainmentreview perhaps speaks for itself.
Brian Johnson, film critic at Maclean’s and President of the Toronto Film Critics Association, tweeted this verdict: “Just saw Cosmopolis. Hyper-verbal yet claustro quiet. Crash-less, cork-lined existentialism. Pattinson more undead than in Twilight.“ [Johnson's subsequent review.]
Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy flamed,”Lifeless, stagey and lacking a palpable subversive pulse despite the ready opportunities offered by the material, this stillborn adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel initially will attract some Robert Pattinson fans but will widely be met with audience indifference.”
Flickering Myth’s Rohan Morbey found it “a complete disaster from beginning to end.”
Seven Magazine’s Jenny McCartney’s main complaint was the stylized syntax spoken by the characters. McCartney did however note Pattinson as “one of the better elements of the film, with eyes that seep disillusion and a mind that reduces all human experience to the meaty crudity of what can be weighed, measured and counted.”
TheGuardian’s Peter Bradshaw said “Cosmopolis [is] stilted, self-important and fantastically shallow,” (reviewing it in the same vein), while Screen Daily’s Lee Marshall noted Pattinson as “fine in the main part” concluding the film was “just too slow and too talky.” A criticism echoed by Jeffrey Wells.
Steve Payne at Sussex Express low balled with 2 out of 5 stars, writing,”Director David Cronenberg has created an intense cinematic experience that will either capture your concentration for 108 minutes or have you running for the nearest exit after about ten.”
Though there was praise for Pattinson.”The English actor and star of the Twilight movies is certainly good as the brooding young billionaire Eric Packer.”
Scoring it 3 out of 5, Katherine Monk at the Vancouver Sun said Cosmopolis was “a two-hour car ride that goes in circles.”
Now Toronto’s Norman Wilnerfound viewing “more interesting as an intellectual experience than as entertainment; you watch Cosmopolis fully aware that it wants to be deconstructed rather than enjoyed.”
Similarly, John Semley at AVClub grumbles at what he called “the film’s shallow intellectualism.”
Chris Knight at National Postopined. “The problem with Cosmopolis is that the rarefied intellectualism displayed on the page translates poorly to the screen.”
Hannah Shaw-Williams at Bleeding Cool saw “two hours of Robert Pattinson sitting in a limousine with a rear-projection of New York outside.” Deciding Pattinson’s performance was “what ultimately drags Cosmopolis down”, for Williams it was only worth seeing “for its uniqueness.”
Dismissing Pattinson as “underwhelming” Eric Kohn lamentedCosmopolis’ “experimental nature” as a fatal hindrance to the film’s commercial prospects.” A later review by Glenn Heath Jr. allowed for more than monetary concerns.
Movies on Virgin Mediafound it “fascinating & dull in almost equal measure but it may well be Robert Pattinson’s best performance to date.”
New Statesman’s Ryan Gilbey abhorred what he called the “air of detachment expressed in a reliance on state-of-the-nation epigrams,” but qualified saying, “In its favour, the film has Pattinson [...]He brings hunger but also delicacy.”
Raffi Asdourian balked at what he called “a perfunctory adaptation” but adds Pattinson’s “solid, ennui-filled performance” is “substantive and reminiscent of Christian Bale in American Pyscho.”
It got better.
Hitfix’s Guy Lodge summed,
“This is the richest, wittiest, most stimulating material Cronenberg has had to work with in a decade [but] it will take further viewing [to] decide if the finished film, briskly paced and unapologetically talky as it is, quite makes good on the opportunity”. Though noting Pattinson’s screen presence as “compelling,” Lodge thought this was only evidenced when the ‘action’ sited in the limo.
Screenjabbers Stuart Barr reflected,”I’m still mulling over Cosmopolis, probably need to sleep on it. One thing I can say for certain, Robert Pattison is very good in it.”
Barr’s subsequent review again praised Pattinson’s “excellent work”, adding, “Cosmopolis is provocative and full of ideas, but it seems to skate along the surface of current events without penetrating deeply and offering any real insight.
Farah Nayeri at the San Francisco Chronicle writes: “Incredibly, Pattinson delivers the strongest performance. His blase expression works well, and he pulls off complicated limo scenes with Binoche and the doctor.”
Anna Smith said Pattinson was a “good fit for Cronenberg’s cold, weird Cosmopolis”. France 24′s Eve Jackson said she was “left feeling numb by Cosmopolis” but thought Pattinson was “excellent.” [Jackson's memo may not have reached everyone at France 24 as a later article reckoned the actor failed to "deliver."]
Vulture’s assessment,”Pattinson is able to convey a whole lot about his Cosmopolis character simply with a curdled sneer and a soul-sick gaze,” giving the actor extra points for “delivering the tricky DeLillo dialogue.”
Time Out’s Dave Calhoun took issue with Cosmopolis’ “wordiness” but commended the “end-of-days menace running through the film”, singling out Pattinson’s “commanding, sympathetic portrait of a man being consumed by his own vanity and power.”
Konekt, though left wanting by the film’s climax, gave it 3 out of 4. Their verdict? A “thinker’s movie that wrestles with DeLillo’s ideas/pretensions and, for the most part, comes out on top.”
IonCinema’s Eric Lavallee said, “Cosmopolis sees Robert Pattinson deliver, perhaps his best performance to date as Eric Packer.”
Edgar Chaput at Sound on Sight noted it as “too clinical” but also said,”Cosmopolis has little nuggets of gold waiting to be discovered and enjoyed by the viewers. It features an impressively eclectic cast with a few truly stellar performances.”
For Chaput, one of those performances belonged to the film’s lead,”one actor who, in a pleasant surprise, comes out looking rather good is the oft maligned Robert Pattinson.”
At one point in her review The London Evening Standard’s Charlotte O’Sullivan calls the film “an almighty chore,” but also admits to being “Cosmopolised.”
O’Sullivan writes,”What a relief to be able to report that the gamble taken by this always interesting director and his young star does eventually pay off. Will it make anybody a ton of money? No, and that’s surely half the point.”
Then, much better.
Montreal Gazette’s T’cha Dunlevy rated it 3.5 out of 5 saying,”This film rests squarely on Pattinson’s broad shoulders, and in the brooding features of his perfectly chiselled face. Cronenberg is at play in this slippery, surreal affair that is best appreciated with open ears and an open mind – and begs to be seen twice.”
Twitch Film’s Brian Clark said,
“[Cronenberg's] choice to cast Robert Pattinsonwas an inspired and brilliant decision. While Cosmoplisis a bit too one-note to allow any proclamations about Pattinson’s range, his opaque, handsome, sometimes robot-like face compliments Cronenberg’s themes and styles perfectly. In terms of what the director seems to be aiming for here, his cold performance is nearly flawless.”
“Cronenberg has still made an odd, uncompromising and occasionally brilliant film of his own, one which is well worth seeing if only for the deft way the Cronenberg finds an emotional arc in such an inhuman world. Or else to see how perfectly Pattinson’s performance suits the director.”
Eric Vespe at Ain’t It Cool admits struggling with the rhythm of the film’s dialogue initially but said once he did, he was “captivated”. And just as others have commented on the vestigal effects of Cosmopolis, Vespe writes ” The more distance I get from the movie, the more I like it.”
HeyUGuys, while not enamoured with the film’s pace, were emphatic about Pattinson.
“So, er, yeah. It turns out Robert Pattinson can really act [...] Pattinson totally kills the role. He’s dismissive and elitist, yet also dripping with charisma and downright swagger. He manages to display an old, rumbling rage under surface, and he does all this barely moving a muscle. He is to evil understatement what Nic Cage is to shouty mega-acting.”
The Sunday Times’ Jonathan Dean said “Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis is clever, brilliant and funny; mocking R-Patz for being 100s of years old. Maybe you had to be there.”
AVclub’s Mike D’Angelo comments, “the more abstract and overtly stylized Cosmopolis is, the more it thrills.”
Seminowicz emoted “Cosmopolis is like falling into shattering icecubes. Afterwards you feel alive.”
Jonathan Romney was “mesmerized,” a later article in Sight and Sound dubbing Cosmopolis “the sleekest, shiniest, most unearthly vehicle on display in this year’s Cannes.”
Peter Howell declared it “a blockbuster of the mind, fascinating as much for what Cronenberg shows us as for what he doesn’t show.” [His review].
Jake Howell (not related) writes “Didn’t get the good movie chills very often during [Cosmopolis] but as I reflect they’re coming in waves. Bravo.” In a later review Howell praised its “juicy critiques of society,” adding “Robert Pattinson’s Eric Packer solidifies what some critics have suspected for a while now: the dude is more than a perfectly-chiseled face.”
Before the screening, Maxim Barrault tweeted “The question is: has Leo’s Carax’s Holy Motors taken the wind out of David Cronenberg and Robert Pattinson’s Cosmopolis[?].”Less than 2 hours later, Barrault answered his own question, saying,“I think I heard whistles from the cheap seats upstairs but I no longer care. I enjoyed every crazy self-important minute of Cosmopolis.”
Sight and Sound said “Cosmopolis fascinates to the end.”A later review by Nick James decided that “This isn’t an easy film to watch,” but could also “yet turn out to be a blueprint for things we’d rather avoid but have to face.”
In his review, MSN’s James Rocchi in what seems like a back-handed compliment said, “if you’re casting for a dead-eyed shark wreathed in unearned privilege, Pattinson turns out to be a pretty good choice.” Then he rates the film 4 out of 5 and you realize he’s actually saying Pattinson interpreted Packer perfectly.
Movie Review’s Caroline Preece graded it 3 out of 5 promising viewers they would, “leave Cosmopolis with a satisfaction that rarely follows you out of the cinema.”
Describing Pattinson’s role as a “smart and welcome change for the actor to embrace,” Preece adds “with this material, there are moments where he struggles to convey the depth of emotion required, but he pulls it out of the bag when it’s really needed, and carries the film on his shoulders for the entire running time.”
Total Film’s Rob James rating it 3 out 5 said, “Not only is Cosmopolis more talky and less cinematic than Cronenberg’s previous drama, it might just be the weirdest movie of the year.”
Pronouncing it a “game-changer” for Pattinson, James adds: “Cinematographer Peter Suschitzky’s precise, clinical visuals put Pattinson under intense scrutiny. But he chews through the challenge of Cronenberg’s immensely literate script – lifted hand over hand from the prose in Don DeLillo’s dense, stylish novel – with real confidence.”
Cinevue’s Russell Cook praised Pattinson’s performance as “rich in mood, tone and delivery, comfortably embracing a plot full of seriously bizarre and awkwardly funny moments, vindicating the Canadian master’s bold [casting] call.” Cook’s final appraisal: A “stylish think-piece for our times.”
NYT’s Manohla Dargis praised Cronenberg’s lensing and noted Pattinson’s performance as perfect ” for the movie’s sepulchral air.”
The Arts Desk’s Emma Simmonds awarded 4 out of 5, noting Pattinson as “well cast” in a film that was both a “study of detachment” and “cinema at its most intimate and inquisitive.”
Uptown Magazine’s Nicholas Freisen considered Cosmopolis a “return to form” for its director, contexting Pattinson’s performance saying, “If you think of Packer as the spiritual descendant of Bret Easton Ellis’s Clay character from Less Than Zero, you will understand the true genius of Pattinson’s performance and see it as completely appropriate [...]”
Fangoria’s Chris Alexander: “It most certainly is a difficult film, but for serious fans and scholars of the director’s unique and unwavering world view, it is both essential and immensely rewarding”. Alexander adds “Pattinson [...] is excellent in a difficult role.”
Cinemart, rating the film 4 out of 5 said, “This is Robert Pattinson’s acting manifesto and it builds on the promise he has shown with characters not given the same range as found in Eric Packer.”
Starburst’s Robert Keeling said, “One thing which has to be emphasised is that Robert Pattinson is absolutely superb throughout. He is in practically every scene and a great deal of pressure thus lands on his young shoulders. ”
“He masters the aloof and emotionless nature of Packer perfectly and more than holds his own with an old pro like Paul Giamatti during a tense confrontation towards the movie’s end. An actor of his bankability doesn’t need to do movies of this size, and in many ways it is a bold move for the Twilight star, and it is one which pays off handsomely.”
Ian Schultz at Cinehouse UK recognized the polarizing nature of the film but said,
“[...] that’s the intent and it’s taken pretty much word for word from the novel. It’s about people isolated from the outer world and become increasing interested in themselves and themselves only and after all he wants the most vain thing a damn haircut.”
Schultz added,”Robert Pattinson is quite astonishing the role as Packer, he is ice cold and inhumane in the best possible way and almost alien like as in David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth. He perfectly captures the psychosis of a man who has everything but wants nothing except he has a death wish.”
“I think I may have found an early contender for film of the year. A lot will hate but if you can get what Cronenberg is trying to do you will be engrossed even with it’s deliberately alienating cinematic devices.”
Hammer to Nail’s Michal Oleszczyk proclaimed it “mesmerizing,” tagging it “this year’s Margin Call for the philosophical-minded set.”
Bruce Kirkland at The Toronto Sun lavished an ‘A+’ for “intelligent and stylish cinema, an antidote to the time-wasters [that] occupy so many theatres during the silly summer season.” Then, giving grace notes to Pattinson: “Adopting a convincing American accent, Pattinson aces the role despite his panic attacks before the film starting shooting in Toronto.”
Den of Geek’s James Peaty punched in 4 out 5 stars: “If you’re interested in seeing a top-of-the-line director working with great actors and provocative material in a form that English language cinema seems to have all but turned its back on, then Cronenberg’s latest is definitely worth both your time and money.”
Saving this for Pattinson:
“As for the Twilight star, who has to shoulder being in literally every scene of the movie, it will no doubt upset some people to hear that he acquits himself more than admirably. Managing the tricky task of being both simultaneously aloof and vulnerable, Pattinson mines the ambiguity in Packer’s character for all it’s worth.”
“Slowly stripped of both Packer’s literal and metaphorical armour as the film progresses, the quality of Pattinson’s performance is brought into sharp focus in the film’s climactic scene. Going toe-to-toe with the superb Giamatti in an extended face-off, Pattinson more than holds his own with the veteran actor. ”
Tom Charity at LoveFilm said “Some folks are reluctant to admit Robert Pattinson can act. They will come round eventually. The guy is more than his haircut. This is a talky script, but he navigates it with skill and conviction.” Then, turning his attention to the film itself declared it,
“Slyly funny and at least as philosophical as it is political – by which I mean it’s as concerned with existential angst as much as social inequities – I predict Cosmopolis will come to be seen a one of Cronenberg’s purest accomplishments.”
The Guardian’s Philip French blisters a 4/5 approval, spotlighting Cosmopolis’ denouement as “riveting cinema, as fine as anything Cronenberg has done.”
On Pattinson’s Eric Packer: “As played with frightening conviction by Robert Pattinson he’s a Gatsby-esque figure, remote, inscrutable and doomed.”
Dorkshelf’s Andrew Parker heaped admiration on Pattinson, describing his turn as “the true starmaking performance that the actor has probably long hoped for.”
In his review Parker adds, “It’s a hard and challenging film for casual viewers to ever hope to have in “in” with, but for those willing to follow along and let the film wash over them in the same way a great book can take over the imagination, Cosmopolis is a heck of a ride.”
Slant Magazine’s Budd Wilkins saw a “cold yet frenzied techno-downer, Cronenberg films DeLillo’s postmodern Ulysses as profoundly perverse successor to [Videodrome]”. Wilkins’ later review describing the film as “diamond-hard and dazzlingly brilliant.”
Telegraph critic Robbie Collin, praised it as “talky but terrific, with a steely, sinuous turn from Pattinson. Chillingly current too.” Collins’s later review echoed these sentiments.
The Cult Den’s Darryl Griffith said “Cosmopolis proves to be an outstanding and unflinching depiction of the current climate.”
Then adds, “In a real game changing role, Pattinson delivers his most accomplished and assured performance to date. Anchoring the film with meticulous poise and charisma, his thoroughly engaging protagonist here may finally put the doubters to rest in regards his acting abilities.”
DIY’s Becky Reed raved “Robert Pattinson is a bit bloody brilliant in Cosmopolis. As in, I couldn’t have imagined another actor his age topping that performance.” In a review that followed Reed reserved her highest laurels for Pattinson:
“It’s a breakthrough performance for the Twilight star, who has consistently chosen interesting projects despite his heart-throb status, and Cronenberg’s brave casting has paid off. Pattinson is riveting throughout – there is a maelstrom of fierce intelligence in his financial wunderkind, bubbling under a controlled stoniness.”
“It’s a layered performance, one of the best of the year, that makes the often pretentious and unrelatable theories believable and compelling. Pattinson holds this stagey yet visually memorable film together, even when it unravels unsatisfyingly – he makes the film worth your while. You won’t see another film starring an A-list idol this brave for a long time.”
Indiewire’s Simon Abrams hailed the film’s “insanely rich and maddeningly complex” scenarios, a “triumph.” [Abrams is mentioned again below.]
Empire Online came out swinging,“[Pattinson] has the chops” and “nails a difficult part almost perfectly, recalling those great words of advice from West Side Story: You wanna live in this crazy world? Play it cool.”
For Ryan Lattanzio, the film is Cronenberg’s “best work since A History of Violence“, bristling with “energy, ideas and confidence.” There was kudos too for Pattinson’s “cold, unfeeling, sexy” performance. [A fuller review followed.]
Variety’s Justin Chang lauds Cronenberg’s *coolly corrosive allegory” of a technologically fixated, corrupted world, spotlighting Pattinson’s performance as “excellent”. Then, goes one better, proclaiming the Brit actor an “indispensable asset.”
Catherine Bray, editor of Film4 Online enthused “Cosmopolis film of Cannes for me.Extraordinary psychological and sensual immersion in the psychosis of capitalism; Pattinson brilliant.” Bray’s later review defining it as a “coming together of source, director and star with a relevance that rarely occurs in cinema.”
The Independent’s Jonathan Romney (also mentioned above) delights, “This is a surpassingly odd film that some will reject outright, but I was totally won over. Cosmopolis may, like Packer’s limo, be an elaborately conceived but essentially vacant vehicle – yet it has a master at the wheel.”
Rolling Stone (Italy) showered adjectives and a 5/5 rating, crowning it “a masterpiece.”
Little White Lies called Pattinson’s Eric Packer “magnetic [... ] This is his best performance to date by some considerable margin. Yes, even better than Remember Me”, while Simon Abrams demanded that the jury “give ‘em the Palme! A.”
A sentiment echoed by The Guardian’s Xan Brooks, rhapsodizing that he was “blown away by Cosmopolis at Cannes. A film of cool, diamond brilliance. Perfectly fitted, a tale for the times. Note to jurors: this one.” [a video review followed].
In a subsequent review, Brooks exults “Cosmopolis, praise be, is flat-out marvellous, a 21st-century American horror story, haunted by “the glow of cyber-capitalism”. David Cronenberg does an elegant job of converting Don DeLillo’s chilly, mysterious prose to the screen, while the performances have just the right wonky, off-kilter intensity.”
Filmoria‘s forensically detailed, yet oddly moving review identified Pattinson as “the film’s true driving force”. For Chris Haydon, “everything Cosmopolis desires to express” located in the “utterly fearless, audacious and sizzling performance” Pattinson gave.
Harry Harris of Sabotage Times was unequivocal: “I’ll cut right to the chase: The film is an absolute work of art, and Robert Pattinson’s performance is nothing short of stunning … go and see this film, probably the most exciting piece of cinema this century.”
For an arthouse film weighed with so much expectation differences of opinion were to be expected. But the majority of critics were agreed on one thing: Together with an outstanding supporting cast and the unflinching hand of a master director, Robert Pattinson not only met the challenge of realizing DeLillo’s impossibly, probable anti-hero — he exceeded it. Palme d’Or or not, that achievement stands.
Starring Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel, Mathieu Amalric, Samantha Morton, Kevin Durand, Emily Hampshire and Patricia McKenzie, Cosmopolis opens in theaters in France today. [Note: Italics added to Twitter quotes.]