Cosmopolis – A Metropolitan Odyssey

Very rarely do I walk into a theatre not knowing much about the film I’m about to watch.  Cosmopolis was one of these few and far in-between experiences.  Of course I saw the trailer, but the film’s trailer, as you may well know, doesn’t really explain much – it’s one of those rare trailers that doesn’t reveal the entire film.  All I knew going in was that the overall tone looked interesting, I was eager to see Robert Pattinson in something that challenged his public image, and the fact that it will undoubtedly be entertaining with a writer/director like David Cronenberg behind it all.

Eric Packer is a 28 year-old billionaire who wants a hair cut.  His hair isn’t long by any means and even though his chief of security, Torval, advises him against going across town because the president is traveling through the city that same day, Packer insists that they must go on – “we need a haircut”.  Packer has it all – a beautiful wife with a name worth billions, a high rise home with two private elevators (each with different speeds and music), a hugely successfully company, and a limousine that acts as an executive office on wheels – but what he doesn’t have is answers to all of his questions.  With question’s like “where do limousines go at night?” and “why are they called airports?”, everyone close to Packer refuses to answer. But why?  As one of his colleagues suggests, perhaps Packer will lose respect for them based on their reply.

As he travels through downtown in his limo, Packer is seated on what looks like Kirk’s captain chair aboard the USS Enterprise (controls and all).  His mobile office is soundproof, adding an extra sense of discomfort to the scenes therein – only hearing dialogue and perhaps the beating of hearts.  His windows can be tinted, but are more often not so.  In stopped traffic, characters keep entering and exiting the vehicle as if they had a scheduled meeting.  New York City is Eric Packer’s waiting area.  His co-workers are telling him he bet wrong with Chinese Yuan and is loosing millions every second.  His wife tells him he smells of sex – he does, because he keeps having it – but he assures her its his desire for sex with her that she smells.  And Torval informs him that a threat has been made on his life, that they must turn around and give up on the haircut, but Packer is determined and they tread on.

Although Cosmopolis may not deal with specific themes we’ve come to expect from Cronenberg, there is no doubt that it is his work.  He creates a tone that is eerie and sleazy, serene and chaotic.  He places the camera tactically and uses wide-angle lenses to keep a film that is 90% inside a limousine interesting to look at.  I have not read the source material by Don DeLillo, but Cronenberg’s script contains highly peculiar dialogue that often doesn’t make sense to someone unfamiliar with the market, yet paints a vivid portrait of each character that can be quite easily understood.

Pattinson gives his best performance to date as Eric Packer.  He leaves behind the unfortunate reputation he has acquired from his Twilight stardom and creates a character we love to hate, yet aren’t easily willing to watch fall.  All the performances were pretty great, but next to Pattinson, it is Mathieu Amalric and Paul Giamatti that definitely stand out.  Amalric plays a professional pie-er(?) who smashes scum like Packer in the face with cream filled pies (he most notably pied Fidel Castro in face not once, but three times).  His part is short and sweet, and unforgettable, but it is Giamatti as Packer’s call-in killer that steals the show.  The two debate life from their respected sides of the spectrum – rich and poor, young and old, sane and insane (arguable) – but they do share one thing, utter despair (unarguable).

– Kyle Owen

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