I came across this interesting article from Joshua Chaplinsky at LitReactor where he compares DeLillo’s novel with Cronenberg’s film because on rare occasions the film is better than the book. He doesn’t think so this time, but my impression is that he thinks it came close to doing so. Anyway there’s an extract below, but if you want to read full article click on link above:
“… Visually, Cronenberg is a perfect match. His assured direction, along with the sleek production design of Arvinder Grewal and Toronto as a stand-in for the Big Apple, gives an otherworldly life to the near-futuristic film. Cronenberg is nothing if not an accomplished technician. But the real trick to DeLillo’s novel is the dialog. The book is filled with rambling, often didactic conversations, written in a hyper-realistic style. Theatrical repartee with off-kilter rhythms and turn-on-a-dime non-sequiturs. It is the literary equivalent of a composer eschewing standard 4/4 for more complex time signatures. Get an inexperienced musician to interpret the composition, get an actor who doesn’t have the chops, and you’re screwed.
Which puts a lot of pressure on Robert Pattinson. I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t happy when he was cast as Packer. I thought Cronenberg’s initial choice, Colin Farrel, was a much better one. But that fell through and a movie needs star-power to get made, so enter a young heartthrob best known for a certain romampire franchise who wants to spread his acting wings and migrate to more challenging territory. But hey, that’s only a metaphor; he’s not actually a bird. And those wings aren’t real; they’re a kindergarten craft of glue, feathers, and popsicle sticks. Fly too close to the sun with those puppies and it’s crash and burn, for you and the entire film.
So let’s just get it out of the way and address the 900 pound gorillephant in the room who shat on your rug and slept with your sister– Robert Pattinson’s terrible acting doesn’t ruin this movie. That’s because, gasp!, he’s not terrible in it. His expressionless, Keanutone delivery is actually a decent fit for the character. I just feel like Cronenberg, who told the audience he doesn’t do rehearsals, probably should have in this case. To go back to the musical metaphor, Pattinson can actually jam, but a little more familiarity with the material, a little more practice with the other musicians, would have made for a tighter performance.
And that’s the main problem with the film– the rhythm is inconsistent. In some of the scenes, it’s like watching an experienced orchestra, but in others, the cadence seems off. In some scenes, Pattinson approaches really-goodness, in others, he just seems lost. I believe part of it has to do with what actor he is paired with, and how he is playing off them. Part of it is how he chooses to deliver his lines. Sometimes it is awkward and stilted. Sometimes it sings.
The final scene, for instance, between Eric Packer and Benno Levin/Richard Sheets (played by Paul Giamatti), is an atomic bomb of aplomb. The G-man brings some much-needed humanity and emotion to an otherwise frosty film, completely dominating the climactic confrontation. But Pattinson rises to the occasion, saving the best for last like Vanessa Williams, turning in his best work to date. (Full disclosure: this is the only film I’ve seen him in.) He’s also quite good in the scene where he talks his Chief of Finance to orgasm while getting a prolonged prostate exam in the back of the limo.
That’s right. Did I forget to mention that Cosmopolis is also an incredibly funny film? The stylized dialog may seem more natural on the page, but hearing it vocalized by actors serves to highlight just how absurd it can be. Rereading DeLillo’s novel, I was struck by how much funnier I found it the second time. But it never made me laugh out loud like the film did.
But overall, Cronenberg’s film proves the old adage about literary adaptations true. It’s not a failure, by any means, but the student doesn’t quite become the master on this one. The old market has been re-exploited, but the industry of DeLillo’s written word has not been harshly eliminated. A middle ground has been found between the two, with mixed results. In a recent appearance on The Daily Show, Pattinson exhorted Twilight fans to turn out in droves to support Cosmopolis (despite the fact that it only opened in 6 theaters). There is no way they will like this film, but I sincerely hope they show up. That way, Cronenberg will be able to continue to take interesting cinematic risks like this one.”
Personally, and I’ve said it before, I think Rob’s performance improves as the movie progresses, so that by the time we arrive at the Benno/Eric scene his performance really is spectacular. And Joshua I too hope Cronenberg is able to continue his “cinematic risks”.