Cosmopolis: Cronenberg’s Divisive Film

Based on Don Delillo’s 2003’s novella of the same title, David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” is one of his most divisive and problematic films.

World-premiering at the Cannes Film Fest, the film received mixed reviews (by Cronenberg standards), though it’s the kind of work that European viewers may respond to more strongly than their American counterparts.

As the affluent executive Eric Packer riding a limousine all over Manhattan around New York City in nearly every scene, Robert Pattinson is credibly cast in this anti-establishment, or more specifically anti-American capitalism work.

Early on, we observe Eric taking a long ride to get an haircut, but like any other road tale, his trip is replete of delays and obstacles, some caused by traffic jams, others by work briefings and calls to and from employees.

As with the book, the screenplay begins with a line from Zbigniew Herbert’s poem “Report from the Besieged City: “A rat became the unit of currency.”

Not to worry: This is a Cronenberg work and so it succeeds in not turning into a blatant message picture.

Though grounded, Eric lives in his own high-tech world, protected (up to a point) from the invasion of the real outside world.

The point of the narrative, also adapted by Cronenberg, is to shatter Eric’s insulated existence, by imposing on him the company of various women and sex partners (appealingly played by Samantha Morton, Juliette Binoche, and others). Occasionally there is some small talk with his body guard (Kevin Durand), while making

Not much happens dramatically. We observe Eric as he makes an attempt to ignore the Occupy-like protestors dominating the streets, as his car gets buried in their graffiti. Some of the weaknesses derive from the limited and restricted space of the text.

We wait for Eric to get out of his shielded car, and eventually he does, engaging in sort of a showdown with one of his staffers (Paul Giamatti, who may be miscast, or misdirected)

Unlike the book, “Cosmopolis” the movie fails to illuminate Eric’s persona and worldview, other than to show small details of his lifestyle. It may be that Cronenberg trust his viewers too much, or perhaps Hs decided consciously to leave things too vague and ambiguous to the end.