Robert Pattinson is magnetic in David Cronenberg's superb adaptation of Don DeLillo's postmodernist novel.
David Cronenberg’s superb latest is an existential road movie for our financially and morally bankrupt times, interested as much in addressing the semantic minutiae of the corporate apocalypse as it is deep felt anxieties relating to stress, success, control and our inability to ward off death with money and status.
Like The Social Network, it combines a credible depiction of a person whose age and intellect are dangerously off kilter, while sending its ‘hero’ on an anti-capitalist nightmare odyssey that discharges all the dry cynicism and insouciant doomsaying of Godard’s Week End.
Very neatly abridged by Cronenberg himself from the 2003 novel by American postmodernist writer, Don DeLillo, his screenplay filets out much of the dialogue from the source while expunging the flashbacks, dreams and internal monologues.
Robert Pattinson is magnetic as Eric Packer, slick, jaded 26-year-old CEO of Packer Capital who decides to take a fleet of Limousines across New York City in search of a haircut. This is his best performance to date by some considerable margin. Yes, even better than Remember Me.
But there’s something strange about this idle whim. Eric is a man to whom people and services come, not the other way around. As his loyal security guard, Torval (Kevin Durand), says, he could have a barber come to the office, or even to the Limo. During a single day, Eric experiences an Icarus-like fall from grace while numerous acolytes and paramours visit him in his cab to chat numbers, health and even the sudden death of rap megastar, Brutha Fez.
People want Eric dead, or in the case of Mathieu Amalric’s mad Andre Petrescu, to throw a pie in his face. He has become a walking wanted poster for the corporate scourge who cheerfully wipe out millions with a few swipes of touchscreen computer. For Eric, murder is also starting to shed its taboo status.
It’s a richly verbose film, even more so than his majestic, 2011 exploration of extreme emotional repression, A Dangerous Method. It gets to the point where much of what is spoken cannot be fathomed – "talent is more erotic when it’s wasted" – but the film is about the rhythms of dialogue, the verbal posturing, sparring and deceptions employed in the economic sector.
The way in which Cronenberg photographs the talk, too, is subtle, elegant and intense without ever drawing undue attention to itself or feeling overly oppressive. Per Cronenberg himself, this is a film in which “fantastic faces say fantastic words”.
Beyond its withering critique of contemporary capitalism, Cosmopolis is also fascinated by that ongoing Cronenbergian concern: the limitations and mutations of the human body. Eric desperately wants to scale an economic Mount Olympus and be able predict the permutations of the Chinese Yuan, and his inability to attain this level of cerebral perfection acts as a signifier for his mental and physical decline.
In one scene, Eric has a prolonged rectal examination after which he is informed that his prostate is asymmetrical. In a climactic showdown with a disgruntled, pistol-wielding ex-employee (Paul Giamatti), this small bodily imperfection becomes the key to understanding Eric’s meltdown.
This film clocks up the astronomical price of achieving so much at such a young age, when your body and mind reach a state where there is no reason left for them to function.
It’s David Freakin’ Cronenberg ferchrisakes.
Pattinson is magnetic, this script a real thing of acerbic beauty.
It’s about the corporate mindset and out-of-control youth, but so, so much more…