ROBERT PATTINSON is moving on.
At least moviewise. He uses "Cosmopolis" to obliterate his "Twilight" persona, that of the chaste, PG suitor who sublimates physical desire and, for the sake of love, waits until marriage (before turning his wife into a vampire).
In the deeply R-rated "Cosmopolis," he's Ed Packer, a hedge fund guy and a predatory philanderer who pesters his wife for sex, and, getting nowhere on that front, proceeds to engage women in the back seat of his limo, in full view of his security detail, one of whom he also beds.
And yet the movie is not really sexy. The physical encounters are a window in the character's soul, or the void where his soul should reside. Packer is usually disinterested during the act, which occurs during the most banal conversations. Example - he becomes aroused during a in-limo prostate exam while receiving information on currency exchange rates from an attractive associate, dressed for jogging, who has a simultaneous and equally rewarding encounter with her water bottle.
Good heavens - who would come up with something like that? David Cronenberg, working from a text by Don De Lillo (his novel of the same name).
Here we have a brainy, sometimes impenetrable director, working from a book by brainy, sometimes impenetrable author. What do they come up with? Something that's brainy, sometimes impenetrable.
But often striking. DeLillo's novel was published in 2003, and ingeniously anticipated the contemporary debate about the role of Wall Street - where the large and complex machinery of money movement has become dangerously detached from productive endeavor.
Packer is the embodiment of this - insulated from the world outside (and the Occupy Wall Street-ish protests engulfing his vehicle), a stranger to the people in his life. A man obsessed with the details of his health, yet possessed of a death wish that seems to flow from the notion that his demise would at least prove that he was alive.
I'll confess that a great deal of the limo-bound movie conversation went over my head - Packer stops to admit passengers who give him advice on data analysis, philosophy, art, spirituality, markets, etc. It's dialogue that works on the page of a novel, wherein you can rescan. It flies by on screen, leaving you reaching for Cliff's notes.
Still, trenchant observations peep through. Like the idea that the modern leveraged buyout capitalist and anarchist have something important in common - the self-flattering belief that the urge to destroy is a creative one.
Contact movie critic Gary Thompson at 215-854-5992 or email@example.com. Read his blog at philly.com/KeepItReel.