Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Jay Baruchel, Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche
Running Time: 109 minutes
Release: June 15th
David Cronenberg. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Exploding heads, Jeff Goldblum pulling fingernails, Viggo Mortensen’s bare-all brawl, or James Woods’ bronzed ass? Since his 1969 debut Stereo, Cronenberg has been revered as the king of body horror – a genre tag seemingly created to explain his work through the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s. A shift occurred though with eXistenZ which saw him switch to more psychological horrors. The mind, after all, can be a pretty scary place.
Cosmopolis, adapted from Don DeLillo’s novel of the same name, continues this trend. Billionaire asset-manager Eric Packer (Pattinson) wants a haircut. A haircut that is going to have him traverse the New York landscape on the day of a presidential visit, a funeral procession for a Sufi rap star and a violent 99% protest. All the while, Packer is constantly made aware of threats to his personal safety, as well as his personal fortune.
Much of the fanfare preceding Cosmopolis relates to how it is the first film adaptation from DeLillo’s large canon of postmodern work. A strong and prevalent influence on Bret Easton Ellis, DeLillo’s Packer veers eerily close to American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. Both are equally handsome, wealthy, vapid and vacuous. Where the Manhattan mauler fills his life with Phil Collins compact discs, honey almond body scrub and subtle off-white coloured business cards, Packer’s life is defined by his sound reductive cork-lined limousine, an elevator that travels a quarter the speed of a regular lift and his asymmetrical prostate. Packer is an Occupy Wall Street era Bateman, sans satire.
Cosmopolis shows potential to point the mirror at the ugliness in the modern-day finance world, a warts and all examination of the ‘We Are The 99%’ epoch. And while it does, slightly, it exists only in fleeting glances out of the limousine’s windows as chants of “A spectre is haunting the world” and dead rats clog up the street. The primary focus here, to the film’s detriment, is on a series of existential conversations with varying characters on the power, greed, murder and the nothingness of life.
Surprisingly, Robert Pattinson comes out exceptionally strong as he delivers a performance that smashes any misconceptions he’s nothing but a brooding, sparkling-skinned bloodsucker. Ironically, Packer is every bit the vampire, draining money and life force from all those around him.
The brooding unease of Cronenberg’s movies has always made revisiting them a somewhat daunting feat, yet interesting, complex and likable characters like Seth Brundle and Nikolai Luzhin make it easier. With Cosmopolis, it’s hard to relate to Packer; super-rich and beautiful, his flaws are purely cosmetic. In the end, we feel every bit as void of emotion for Packer as he does for the world. Maybe that was the point.