In defense of Robert Pattinson
The “Twilight” alum is now almost as interesting an actor as Kristen Stewart.
A million think pieces have confirmed it: Kristen Stewart is now an acclaimed actress. But what of her “Twilight” co-star? What of Robert Pattinson, the pale, slightly weirdlooking dreamboat who spent the saga sniffing like a coke addict and mumbling through come-ons like, “I’ve never wanted a human’s blood so much in my life”?
The two have more than an bygone franchise in common: They’ve more or less ditched Hollywood. As their money-gobbling emo series was winding down, both starred in big-time vehicles. Stewart did “Snow White and the Huntsman”; Pattinson popped up in “Water for Elephants” and the dire, offensive 9/11 drama “Remember Me.” They could have done more. But they didn’t. Instead, both decided to go underground, loaning their names, and what has come to be seen as their undervalued talents, to truly interesting films made by iconoclastic filmmakers.
Pattinson was even first. A couple years before Stewart hooked up with her “Clouds of Sils Maria” director Olivier Assayas, he ran off with David Cronenberg. The first sign that he was far more than “Twilight” was 2012’s “Cosmopolis,” the Canadian legend’s bizarro take on a slender Don DeLillo novel. His character is a wealth monster who Pattinson plays as a kind of robot, unsure of how normal people behave. His actions prove increasingly unpredictable, irrational, ultimately violent. He’s absolutely thrilling, and it seemed Cronenberg finally figured out what to do with the young megastar. Since then, Pattinson hasn’t had a role as plumb as “Cosmopolis.” He hasn’t given himself the chance. While Stewart has received art house vehicles like “Cafe Society” and “Personal Shopper,” Pattinson has been happy to make his name as a go-to supporting actor. In “The Rover,” a grim Australian dystopia from “Animal Kingdom’s” David Michod, he’s the loosecannon freak who teams up with our fatalistic anti-hero, played by Guy Pearce. He only swings by occasionally in Werner Herzog’s “Queen of the Desert,” playing a smirking, good-humored T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia).
Sometimes Pattinson’s barely on screen at all. He only has a couple scenes in “The Childhood of a Leader,” Brady Corbet’s disturbing look at a Mussolini-like tyrant as a kid, and he mostly spends them playing snooker. You get the sense — here and in his other Cronenberg film, “Maps to the Stars” — that he’s simply lending his name to fascinating filmmakers, charitably ensuring his presence will get great but difficult work financed.
Pattinson isn’t the lead in James Gray’s new “The Lost City of Z” either; that would be Charlie Hunnam, who plays an English explorer at the turn of the last century traipsing about unchartered Bolivian jungle. Pattinson barely even looks like himself. His clean face is lost under an epic beard, his eyes obscured by wire glasses.
He doesn’t try to steal the movie, but he does disappear into the role. We’re never distracted by him, and we can focus on an iconoclastic director’s singular vision. Instead, Pattinson is a welcome presence.
At this point, it’s a pleasure to see Pattinson appearing in a movie. Give this guy another “Cosmopolis” and chances are he’ll wow us — which is not something you might have said after chuckling through “Breaking Dawn — Part 2.”
Robert Pattinson is barely recognizable under a scruffy beard in the new “The Lost City of Z,” now in theaters.
RPatz has come a long way since “Twilight.”LIONSGATE