Cosmopolis by David Cronenberg, from his own screenplay adaptation of the novel by Don DeLillo is one of “those” films. Those films being the ones where if you were a big fan of the book, you’ll undoubtedly be a big fan of the movie. But if you haven’t read the novel, or you didn’t like it, you may well not like the film. It is not his best effort, and that may be due to his close adherence to the source material.
Robert Pattinson is “Eric Packer”, a man with billions, who manages billions more for others as a “fund manager”. He is somewhere beyond an information addict, it’s more than an addiction. It’s at the core of his being. His tricked-out limousine and the office we’re never shown are repositories of the ultimate in information gathering and tracking. He has the best experts in their fields at his disposal and he uses their knowledge and the information he gathers to place huge wagers on dangerous things like foreign currencies. Win and you win big. Lose and you may not get a seat at the table again.
On the day that the President of the U.S. happens to be in town, making the normally bad traffic in New York City much worse than usual, Eric decides he’s going to go across town to get a haircut. His head of security “Torval” (Kevin Durand) is opposed to the idea. Of course he won’t win the argument, if he did we would have no movie to watch since the journey to get to the haircut is the crux of the film. But it’s an interesting notion. A billionaire doesn’t have to ride across town just to get a haircut. Barbers go to billionaires, not vice versa. Heck, even such ordinary folk as Presidents get their barbers to come to them. President Obama’s been flying his Chicago area barber into D.C. since he moved into the White House, and who can forget that famous haircut that then President Clinton got while aboard Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport? Christophe and President Clinton kept air traffic gnarled in knots for over an hour as the high-priced hair stylist gave the President a trim while Air Force One’s engines were running.
So Eric is going to go across town for a haircut. Along the way there will be many visitors who will join him in the back of the limo. Strangely enough, his new wife, “Elise Shifrin” (Sarah Gadon) won’t be one of them, although he will encounter her several times along the way. They have very interesting dialogues and yet clearly there is some part of the connection between a couple that is clearly absent. Then again, there are Eric’s extra-marital sexual escapades, which the audience gets to see quite graphically displayed in and out of the limo. Once with “Didi Fancher” (Juliette Binoche), his mistress, and another time with one of his security guards, “Kendra Hays” (Patricia McKenzie).
The people and experiences that Eric encounters along the way are varied, and mostly involve dialogue, although there is a running reference to rats that may or may not be of interest to a viewer. It’s a reference from the novel, wherein “a rat became the unit of currency”. There is chaos, unrest in the streets, and along the way, it becomes known that there is a credible threat on the life of Eric Packer. He remains unconcerned about the threat, as he is focused on getting that haircut he wants, and monitoring the Yuan (Chinese currency) because he has made huge wagers on movement in it.
Cronenberg is a visual director and while the visuals here are pleasing in many places, in others they are merely ordinary. Worse yet, the dialogue is stilted and on many occasions, seems forced. Pattinson is a good actor, but given what he undergoes, one would expect to see a wider variety of emotions coming from him. Gadon, contrarily, is perfect as the wife who is fascinated by many aspects of her life, but is not all that concerned with her marriage or making her husband happy.
It isn’t all bad. Interesting social commentary, based on a great book, Cronenberg’s gift at visual language and the like push this from a two to a three rating on the popcorn scale. But it barely gets there, and once again, if we had half-ratings, it would be just a 2.5 on the popcorn scale. My best recommendation is that this is best seen at a bargain matinee, or just wait for the DVD. But if you loved the novel, it is then a must-see.