The progression of David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis
is directly in tune with last year’s A Dangerous Method
when it comes to exploring mutation and evolution of the body’s natural process. Whereas Method
was a deconstruction of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung’s partnership, Cosmopolis
is Cronenberg revealing his own take on how adaptation can supplant the original material when presented with familiar actors in basic roles.
Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson
) is an analyst and trader for The Complex who decides to go get a haircut, despite the warnings from his company that there are riots, assassination attempts and general threats in a single crosstown journey across New York City in his custom-made limousine. Along the way, he picks up and mysteriously drops off co-workers like Shiner (Jay Baruchel) and Chin (Phillip Nozuka) to ensure the security of his limo and betting against the Chinese Yuan on the Stock Markets. In-between those visits, he meets with his wife Elise (Sarah Gadon), mistress (Juliette Binoche
), an assistant with whom he also hints an affair (Emily Hampshire) and Head of Security Torval (Kevin Durand). But as Packer crawls through the city, we uncover his dissatisfaction with daily life down to treating sex as an after-thought at lunch or demanding to be tazed just in order to feel something.
Cronenberg is in fine form with Cosmopolis, blurring the lines between style and sexuality that he undercut throughout A Dangerous Method and going full bore. In place of downplaying the characters, he fully embraces the gluttonous desire for Don DeLillo’s characters, which he also translated for the screenplay, into frightening formats of the actors who play them. Pattinson is accurate and near-perfect as Packer, down to his detachment to the character after years of being recognizable from his role in the Twilight franchise. Likewise, Gadon, as his wife, seems to flinch every time sex is brought up instead of money or power--notably during one of their interactions when the concept that he could be broke emerges, she breaks her own shell and appears visibly upset. Money, power and status are the clear points that Cronenberg tackles within the adaptation, down to how every interaction Packer has is a crash course in social dynamics or class structure.
Still, the transition of DeLillo’s prose is tough to get across, such as when Packer inquires about a mole on his chest and a doctor advises “Let it express itself.” “So, do nothing?” “Let it express itself.” It’s a clear voice for the tone of the film, but it utterly threatens to derail the detachment and meta-nature that Cosmopolis
builds upon itself when Cronenberg is constructing his pseudo-New York City that’s clearly shot in Toronto. The entire film is a massive heap of existentialism that requires an audience to know they’re not coming for a trippy film about body horror, but instead know that this is a conceptual take on class warfare by way of haircuts and differing concepts about daily life.
Still it’s hard to dislike Cosmopolis for hardcore Cronenberg fans, at least those who went steadily along with the subtle shifts in last year’s A Dangerous Method. The transformation of Packer into emotionless trader into willing suicide is delicate, even by Pattinson’s touch, and expresses the director’s attempt to take all the gross-out moments from his earlier career into a more cerebral form. The final interaction between Paul Giamatti as a disgruntled employee, and Pattinson is fantastic and alone worth watching. For a brief moment, it allows an audience to forget all the sparkly vampire lore that came before and see two actors embrace roles that are relevant when adapting characters that, even to the original writer, are cut and dry.