“I’m hungry for something thick and juicy,” growls Robert Pattinson at the start of Cosmopolis, and one can imagine Pattinson issuing the same order to his agents after years spent sinking his vampire teeth into wan Twilight flicks. His team earned their keep by landing Pattinson this David Cronenberg–directed movie and a berth at Cannes (where Kristen Stewart’s On the Road premiered just a few days before). And yes, he’s good in it.
In Cronenberg’s adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel, Pattinson plays a boy billionaire who’s already peaked (when someone asks his age, he contemptuously spits “28” as thought it were the new 40) and has nowhere to go but down over the course of one very long day. The thing is, Pattinson sort of seems to be enjoying his self-destruction, which comes as his limo is besieged by anti-capitalist protesters and as he consorts with several willing women who give him what may be the last lay of his life … none of whom include his strategically withholding new bride (Sarah Gadon), whom he married in what was essentially a business merger between two families. When they briefly meet for a meal and Pattinson removes his sunglasses, his wife murmurs, “You never told me you were blue-eyed.” Soul mates? Not quite.
Both Pattinson and Zac Efron have come to Cannes with the hopes of shaking up their heartthrob personas, but while Efron goes opaque in the eyes during crucial scenes in The Paperboy, Pattinson is able to convey a whole lot about his Cosmopolis character simply with a curdled sneer and a soul-sick gaze. He’s skilled at delivering the tricky DeLillo dialogue, too, which Cronenberg has preserved in huge swaths for his adaptation. To speak these ornate monologues feels more like “you’re doing a song than a movie,” Pattinson said at today’s Cannes press conference. “It frees you up.” Indeed, the actor seems far comfortable delivering lengthy monologues here than he does offering a simple “I love you” as Edward Cullen in Twilight.
Though Pattinson claimed that he rarely pulls from his personal life while making movies, he may be more similar to his Cosmopolis character than it would initially appear. For one, they share a certain base level of paranoia. “I do think people are trying to kill me all the time,” Pattinson told us. (Deadpanned Cronenberg, “That’s a personal thing.”) Also, though the movie resonates with a fatalistic view of world wealth, Pattinson doesn’t see the potential collapse of civilization as an unhappy ending. “Maybe I’m just a depressive,” he said, “but sometimes I think the world does need to be washed and cleansed.” One thing Pattinson doesn’t have in common with the brilliant billionaire? “Actors aren’t supposed to be intelligent,” he laughed.
Cronenberg might disagree: Rumor has it they’ll reunite on another movie soon. “I really like his stuff,” explained Pattinson at the press conference. Amused, Cronenberg replied, “I always had the feeling that he’d never seen any of my movies.” In any case, he’s given the Twilight actor the right role at the right time, and you don’t have to look too far to figure out what attracted Cronenberg to Pattinson for the part. The movie itself has a line that could explain why Cronenberg took a chance on the actor, who many had written off as a one-franchise wonder. In fact, Pattinson gets to deliver it himself. “Talent,” he drawls, “is more erotic when it’s wasted.”