COSMOPOLIS

Don DeLillo’s novels are dark, satiric, and so literary, they don’t easily translate to film. That is certainly the case with this deeply philosophical work in which every character speechifies, postulates and theorizes in a way that comes off less pretentiously on the printed page (and would have maybe worked on stage) than it does in David Cronenberg’s movie. To meet this challenge, Cronenberg chooses a largely emotion-free, highly stylized (many would say wooden and stilted) delivery for his anomie-soaked actors — and the result is occasionally involving but mostly laughable. Scenes like the intellectual conversation between fantastically rich anti-hero Robert Pattinson and a female associate conducted in Pattinson’s limo with him on all fours while getting a prostate examination can’t be meant to be anything other than absurdly funny. Instead, they’re just ridiculous. There’s genuine stuff to chew on here, much of it in the segment with Pattinson’s “Chief of Theory” discussing the death of the computer as our very lives and bodies become expressions of digital reality. But for every idea of which you sit up and take notice there are ten others that sound like bad Kierkegaard. Ultimately, the movie is probably best watched as a sort of actor’s showcase: as Pattinson’s limo crosses New York City under increasing existentialist threat, one visitor after another crawls into the limo (with a number of short side trips out of the car). And so we get to watch some intriguing performances by the likes of Jay Baruchel, Sarah Gadon (playing Pattinson’s wife as though she were Niles Crane’s unseen-wife Maris from “Frasier”), and Paul Giamatti, whose final confrontation with Pattinson takes so long to play out, you may find yourself impatient for the gun that never fires. — Jeff Schultz

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