Creative Destruction: Robert Pattinson Perfectly Bad in Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis

And while David Cronenberg’s new film, Cosmopolis, based on the novel by Don DeLillo, does not feature a strong performance by Mr. Pattinson, he is good for the movie. A more naturally gifted actor would not have served the story, which needs at its center someone who can emphasize—or who inadvertently emphasizes against his best efforts—the very stiltedness of each line and the whole enterprise’s remove from reality.

Mr. Pattinson plays Eric Packer, a man who works with money in a not-fully-defined capacity; he’s worried about the yuan. Mr. Packer’s eventful day makes up the plot of Cosmopolis, as the young man only occasionally departs his giant limousine, wherein he meets with various advisers and acquaintances, including a doctor who administers a lengthy rectal exam.

The Cronenbergian body-horror impulse is in full effect here, with the capacious limousine growing ever more claustrophobic and Eric ever more vulnerable to violation and attack. The interior of the car is brilliantly shot in order to convey a sense of the car’s scope without ever showing the full space—throughout the film, new elements of the interior are being revealed, as when Mr. Pattinson’s character relieves himself in a tiny, hidden toilet. The world he inhabits is so unsafe that to leave the car to urinate is a great risk; so, too, is expressing any passion for the woman (played by Juliette Binoche) he brings into the car for sex. Mr. Pattinson, to the likely dismay of tweens who got their parents to drive them to the art-house, doesn’t even remove an article of clothing for the liaison. When he finally gets the haircut he’s been driving vaguely toward, it’s a half-shaved, half-long mess that looks like a Manhattanite’s idea of a Brooklynite and won’t win new female fans.