To those critics who see Cosmopolis as a “last-chance-saloon” opportunity for Robert Pattinson to prove himself, acclaimed director David Cronenberg recently gave them some choice soundbites to chew on.
With acutely polarized reviews of Bel Ami still arriving online daily, and likely to continue until after June 8, (the U.S release date recently announced by Magnolia Pictures for the Maupassant adapted period drama), many critics have taken a slash-and-burn approach to their assessment of the Brit actor. However, on a recent visit to Ontario’s famed Queens University, director Cronenberg added his formidable opinion to the ongoing debate about his latest leading man’s abilities.
The veteran director—creator of such provocative cinematic gems as Scanners, The Fly, A History of Violence, Dead Ringers, and more recently, A Dangerous Method—directed Pattinson in the forthcoming Cosmopolis. Based on Don Delillo’s dark novel about a young billionaire’s eventful limo journey into the underbelly of Manhattan, the film showcases the actor in nearly every scene. Co-stars Paul Giamatti and Mathieu Almaric say Pattinson is good in the film. Actually, make that great. And they’re not alone. Cronenberg—unsurprisingly, since he personally cast Pattinson—agrees.
Describing his newest protegé as a cinephile with a talent that stretched far beyond what was revealed in The Twilight Saga movies, Cronenberg also said, “He is a very serious actor. He wants to be great and takes the trouble to try and be great.” Then, throwing the gauntlet back to those who would say otherwise, the director directly addressed the critical rush to write Pattinson off, with this unequivocal statement. “What he does in [Cosmopolis] will lay that question to rest, which a lot of people who are skeptical of Twilight are asking.”The long list of skeptics includes The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney, who called Pattinson’s performance in Bel Ami ”charisma free,” Variety’s Justin Chang who said pretty much the same, as did Movieline critic Stephanie Zacharek, and Filmoria’s Ria Tesia. Similar criticisms, varying in venom, scope, and degree, also came from Indiewire, the UK’s The Independent, Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Guardian, The Irish Times, The Telegraph, and the Metro, among others.Voices of approval for Pattinson, though considerably fewer, came from the UK’s Financial Times, Digital Spy, Eye for Film, the Radio Times, Yahoo!, Cineuropa, Movieblog, WhatsOnStage and, to an extent, Sight and Sound. So will those critics now prematurely circling Pattinson change their minds when ‘Mopolis drops? Only time will tell.But one thing is clear: Cronenberg, a near legend in his own right, and a man with over 30 years experience at spotting, enduring acting talent (Jeremy Irons and Viggo Mortensen to name only two) is no amateur. If he says Pattinson is great, it would serve movie-goers better if the critics who are paid to inform them, held their fire. And not just until ‘Mopolis hits theaters – but also after that.While the emotionally poignant appeal of The Twilight Saga evidently isn’t for everyone, Pattinson’s revelatory turn in 2010′s underrated Remember Me should afford him some grace time while he determinedly grows and matures into the actor Cronenberg already believes he is. Idealistic? Definitely. But it’s nevertheless true that battering someone with relentless criticism is a peculiarly cold-blooded practice. Encouragement may not be the job of critics, but neither is crushing a young actor’s spirit.With a strongly indicated French release date of May 23, an official Portuguese one on May 31, and hopes for a Cannes showing of ‘Mopolis buzzing, stakes are high. But Cronenberg, for one, isn’t worried. “In Hollywood, the Oscar is like a religious icon—it’s like the Holy Grail. The Weinstein’s are famous for spending millions of dollars to get that Oscar … but that isn’t the game I’m playing.”Famous last words?