Directed by David Cronenberg
“I’m not sure the economy is ready to be examined in an emotional medium such as film.”
This was a highfalutin but utterly daft comment I overheard from one of the critics upon leaving a screening for Cosmopolis. David Cronenberg’s bizarre meditation on greed and power received a lot of negative criticism at Cannes, with many more decrying it as “cold” and “pretentious” – but that seems to be part of the underlining idea of the film (and the novel on which it’s based).
The mood of Cosmopolis reflects the world of young tycoon Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), a super-powered automaton on Wall Street who lives out his soulless existence in a high-tech limousine. On a whim Packer decides to make a journey across town to get a haircut, which soon proves treacherous given the recent social and economic collapse. Think Occupy Wall Street taken to apocalyptic levels (which is amazingly prophetic, given the novel was published ten years ago). Along the way he deals with an assortment of strange individuals, sexual encounters, and threats on his life that slowly reveal the man underneath the suit for who he really is – a complete and total schizoid. Think Travis Bickle by way of Steve Jobs.
While I’ve enjoyed Cronenberg’s more recent mainstream efforts (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, etc.), I’ve found myself missing the experimental maverick I fell in love with, and this is definitely a step back to his earlier surreal works. As it stands, Cosmopolis has more in common with Dead Ringers as an icy, sociopathic character study with some of the most uncomfortable scenes I’ve seen in ages. Long-time fans will easily point out the extension of Cronenberg’s old themes while matters of sex and flesh definitely bubble up to the surface. Even more amazing is how he walks a fine line between strange psychodrama and pitch-black comedy. Oftentimes you’re not sure whether to cringe or chuckle.
By and large the film’s success rests on the shoulders of Robert Pattinson, and he is a complete marvel in the role. It’s clear by now that he’s using the same career trajectory as Leonardo DiCaprio, consciously distancing himself from his heartthrob image by taking the edgiest oddball roles he can find, and he hits a home run here. Even funnier is how the distributor is trying to use Pattinson’s name to sell this movie to the MTV crowd (I would love to be a fly on the wall when gaggles of dumbfounded Twi-hards watch this one). Regardless, it’s pretty clear that Pattinson will go on to be an acting titan once the stench of sparkling vampires has worn off.
The final scenes contain some of the best crazed monologues and mental sparring between actors you’ll ever see. In fact, strip away the stylish visuals, and Cosmopolis could just have easily been a stage play. It’s certainly not an easy film to appreciate. Characters babble on in mathematical gobbledygook that some may find insufferable, but every moment is key to its thesis – 99 or 1 percent, poor or powerful, we’re all fucking nuts. It’s a true return to form for Cronenberg and one of the best films of the year.
4 1/2 out of 5