Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, 28-year-old billionaire asset manager (Eric Packer) crosses paths with a variety of characters inside and out of the limo, weathering a violent demo by anarchists and several strange encounters including a couple with women he seduces. His driver, Torval (Kevin Durand) keeps him informed of developments in New York City - such as the effects of the Presidential visit and potential threats against Packer - but the young man's world is collapsing even as he lets the outer world go by.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In 1927, Fritz Lang made one of cinema's most astonishing films: Metropolis depicted a city of the future in which the workers toiled and slaved below while the rich cavorted above. It was sci-fi and socio-political satire all in one visually striking (B&W) package. There is much more to the film than that one-liner, but it is this essence that author Don DeLillo tries to channel in Cosmopolis, a title that resonates with homage.
But the film ... well, the stilted, manufactured dialogue and the surreal nature of the story ensure that we are emotionally distanced from Eric Packer even as we learn bits about him through the fantasy fog the author creates and the screenplay replicates. This Packer is no relation to Australia's wealthy Packer family, but the name has a nice ring to it for the purposes of the story, in which he is a billionaire. At least at the start of the film, but no longer by its end. Currency speculation and all that ....
Far from reality as we are, and he is, several targets emerge in the screenplay: obviously the rich, those new money rich whose souls have withered on Wall Street. The best scene of the film has Mathieu Amalric playing Andre Petrescu the pie-throwing activist, who claims to have pied some surprising targets.
Cosmopolis is a good example of the enormous gulf that can exist between reading prose and seeing that prose translated into moving images with action and dialogue. On the page, Don DeLillo's book may well work for the most part as a fascinating mind-f***, but on the screen it looks deeply disturbed and / or pretentious, a self indulgent exercise whose meaning has been lost in the adaptation - or at least smudged. This is the result of making Eric a caricature of the young Wall Street gunslinger, beyond recognition and redemption.
David Lynch does surreal and bizarre with greater bravado and style, if that's your cinematic bag, while David Cronenberg has always (except with A Dangerous Method) explored human nature by taking it apart. Here, the pieces have already been scattered and transformed into shapes we don't recognise, relationships we don't believe and dialogue we don't understand.
The late arrival on the scene of Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti) with a grudge and a gun gives the third act a more formal structure and Giamatti makes sure it's him we remember more than Robert Pattinson as Eric. I had hoped the film would engage me more and turn into something fascinating, intriguing and magical - it is not quite any of those things. I still prefer Metropolis.
Review by Louise Keller:
Is it an essay on capitalism? Or a statement on technology? A discourse on control, perhaps? Maybe, an examination of sexual urges? Provocative, intriguing and often pretentious, David Cronenberg's perplexing adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel Cosmopolis could be described in any number of ways ... or some may argue it is a film that defies description. This is the first screenplay Cronenberg has written since his bizarre eXistenZ in 1999, although the subject matter feels closely aligned to the Cronenberg mindset. The result is a fascinating work that makes our grey matter leap to life in an attempt to keep up with the narrative that takes place over a 24 hour period. At times it confuses, irritates and frustrates, and in the final analysis, many will scratch their head and wonder 'What does it all mean?'
Robert Pattinson plays Eric Packer, a young capitalist who sits in his luxuriously fitted white stretch limo while people from his world join him for complex and lengthy dialogues. Even his girlfriend Didi (Juliette Binoche), who thrusts enthusiastically on his lap has plenty to say, including 'Life is too contemporary,' as she rolls provocatively from the limo's seat to the floor. He occasionally briefly leaves his mobile penthouse, to meet his pretty, blond, somewhat robotic wife Elise (Sarah Gadon), who says she smells sex, to which Packer responds it is his hunger she senses. It is during his daily medical check (in the limo) as Packer discusses the merits of the Yuan with his finance minister - that his doctor tells him he has an asymmetrical prostrate.
It is this dichotomy of business and personal life that both captivates and horrifies, and through much of the proceedings Pattinson's face is a study in the expressionless. He is in every scene and to his credit, Pattinson does a superb job of the somewhat bored, mechanical tycoon who is eagerly looking for something more. He even wants Kendra (Patricia McKenzie), the large breasted security agent, with whom he is having sex, to taser him.)
He has had the urge to have a haircut, on this day when the President is in town and the limo drives at snail's pace through the rioting streets of Manhattan. Giant fake rats, symbols of the end of capitalism are carried and thrown by protestors, seen hazily through the limo's tinted windows. One by one, characters in Packer's life make their entrance and exit. Samantha Morton has a scene debating the art of money making and Paul Giamatti, wearing a towel over his head, steals the limelight as the tragic failure of a man who wants to count for something.
Cosmopolis is a film that invites analysis, discussion and opinion. Like unfulfilled sex, it may not totally satisfy, but there is much to mull over and contemplate.
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CAST: Robert Pattinson, Jay Baruchel, Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Durand, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Emily Hampshire, Mathieu Amalric, Patricia McKenzie, Anna Hardwick
PRODUCER: Paolo Branco, Martin Katz
DIRECTOR: David Cronenberg
SCRIPT: David Cronenberg (novel by Don DeLillo)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Suschitzky
EDITOR: Ronald Sanders
MUSIC: Howard Shore
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Arvinder Grewal
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 2, 2012