Cronenberg completely captures the heart and soul of Don DeLillo’s sardonic novel
By Jimmy Gillman
Canadian writer-director David Cronenberg's latest is another in a long line of eclectic, challenging films aimed squarely at adult moviegoers. That means viewers seeking conventional plot structure or a standard realization of traditional action or suspense will be confused by, and disappointed with, Cosmopolis. Others will find it fascinating and well worth the ride.
That ride is actually at the heart of Cosmopolis, based on Don DeLillo's sardonic novel—a strange but captivating combination of admiration and disdain for cultural modernity. In both book and film, the story revolves around a day in the life of 28-year old Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson, terrific), already a billionaire and head of a large and powerful investment firm headquartered in New York.
As the film begins, Packer tells his bodyguard he wants a haircut. The bodyguard (well played by Kevin Durand) cautions the drive across town will be dangerous because traffic all over the city is being rerouted to accommodate a visit from the President of the United States and the funeral of a beloved rap star, also expected to draw tens of thousands of onlookers.
Those circumstances will likely force Packer to traverse unsafe neighborhoods and confront other potential urban dangers, but the young mogul is unmoved, entering his absurdly long white stretch limousine for what will prove to be a surreal odyssey to the barber.
Along the way, the introspective but disconnected Packer and his limo play host to his twenty-something chief of security (Jay Baruchel), who's unable to calm his employer's paranoia; Packer's wealthy, high society wife of a few weeks (Sarah Gadon), who he attempts to coax into consummating their marriage; a middle-aged art dealer (Juliet Binoche) with whom he has casual sex while trying to convince her to part with a particularly valuable collection of paintings; his chief financial analyst (Emily Hampshire), who tells him the recent bet he's placed on Chinese currency is bankrupting the company and him personally (a discussion that occurs while the iconoclastic billionaire receives his daily medical exam); and his chief theorist (Samantha Morton), whose dark, stream-of-consciousness oratories proclaim the evils and virtues of a society in which people and technology are becoming indistinguishable from one another.
The twist in all of this social commentary comes in the form of a disgruntled ex-employee (Paul Giamatti) whose been stalking Parker with the intent of killing him, adding a thriller element to the film’s vignette-styled makeup.
Strikingly shot by cinematographer Peter Suschitzky and filled with many comic asides and ample sardonic humor, Cosmopolis is difficult to categorize. Some critics and audiences have complained the story is difficult to follow, although in reality the plot is rather simple and straightforward.
The same can’t be said for the film (and the book’s) ultimate meaning, which will likely differ depending on who's being asked. At any rate, for those who like to go beyond the “normal,” Cosmopolis should prove both engrossing and, in its own way, highly entertaining.