Posted March 29, 2012 by Alex Moss Editor in C
 
 

Cosmopolis


 

An ironic philosophical journey only
Cronenberg could pull off.

 

Cosmopolis shouldn’t work. Based on an unfilmable book by Don DeLillo, directed by David
Cronenberg
, a director who has often proved elusive and inaccessible to the
mainstream, and starring a Thunderbird puppet best known for playing a tweenage
vampire. And yet, there is
something hypnotically relevant here.

 

Eric
Packer (Robert Pattinson) is an
all-powerful banker. Cocooned in
his bulletproof, soundproof, high-tech limo, he crosses the Big Apple,
ostensibly to get a hair cut, meeting along the way with underlings and
financial experts, his proctologist and encounters with various women, among
them a vampish Juliet Binoche, all
the while lusting after his new wife Elise (Sarah Gadon). But his
over-protective bodyguard Torval (Kevin
Durand
) is worried by a threat to him, traffic is at a standstill due to a
Presidential visit to the city, he gets caught up in the funeral parade for a
much loved, recently deceased rapper and a riot is building downtown. But as the world outside his limo
implodes, Packer takes his life into his own hands.

 

The
whole unfilmable book thing has been repeatedly proven wrong. First there was Tolkein’s Lord Of The Rings,
then Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Just because a source novel has difficult moments to capture
on film, be they epic battles or internal monologues, that doesn’t make it
unfilmable. But despite
Cronenberg’s best efforts, Cosmopolis is not a cinematic experience. For most of its running time we rarely
leave the confines of Packer’s limo.
As we glide around the city, accompanied by slightly questionable
back-projection, we are treated to a stream of people talking at each other,
talking at us. It feels as if a
story of this nature, with its determination to vocally grapple with big themes
and ideas, would be more at home on the stage.

 

Much
of the subtext of the film ends up being blabbed on screen rather than subtly
conveyed via character interaction.
That’s not to say Cosmopolis doesn’t have a point to make, it’s a
jaundiced, scathing view of the consumer driven, corporate world we live in,
where bankers are a bigger target for terrorists than politicians. Everyone who populates this world is
dealing in something, after something, demanding something. And all too often that something is
money. The rich want as much of it
as they can get their grubby hands on, the poor feel they’re owed more share of
the wealth and Packer is happy to take a smidgen of information and turn it to
his advantage, early on relating a dream in which dead rats become a form of
currency.

 

It’s
here that Cronenberg is able to have his devilish frivolity with the
piece. For all its posturing and
philosophising, there is a wonderful sense of irony lurking behind each scene. A dark, ever present sense of humour,
easily missed if you’re busy over-analysing the turgid dialogue. Part of this stems from the ludicrous
situations Packer finds himself in.
One minute he can be asking his wife: “When are we next going to have
sex?” “Soon,” comes the teasing response.
The next minute Packer is holding court with a riveting Samanatha Morton
while rioters outside rock and spray-paint the impregnable limo. Despite his determination to
deconstruct himself over the course of the day, Packer insists on sticking to
his rigid routine, even having his daily prostate exam while conducting a
meeting in the confines of the car.
If there was any doubt as to how much fun Cronenberg is having it comes
at the end when, as the world seems to finally be taking its toll, Packer turns
to an angry Paul Giammati and says: “Yes, let’s take a moment to philosophise,”
as if nothing preceding it has touched on any such thing.

 

So
with the unfilmable book proving more theatrical than cinematic and Cronenberg
bringing his typically wry sense of humour to the film it falls on R-Patz to
see if he has the chops to escape his sparkle fairy vampire roots. The results may be inconclusive but
given Cronenberg has cast him in his next film, Pattinson’s moping Goth days
may be behind him. Maintaining his
soft-spoken approach, without ever really emoting anything other than a raised
eyebrow, Pattinson doesn’t really stretch himself but then that is kind of the
point of his character. Packer is
a drone, a shallow, self-serving, moneymaking machine. He’s American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman
without the histrionics, a shell of a man gliding through the city in search of
something to connect him to the outside world, something to release him from
the cocoon of his limo. With this
in mind Pattinson works as Packer.
You don’t particularly like him, but then you’re not supposed to. He represents everything vacuous and
wrong with the financial sharks who have brought the world to its knees. He opitimises the theory that money
can’t buy you happiness. While
preachy, Cosmopolis consistently pulls the rug from under you with moments of
black comedic bliss. Like its
protagonist, Cosmopolis is an enigma.

 


Alex Moss Editor

 
Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com