Cosmopolis: Cannes Review
Cosmopolis: Cannes Review
After a strong run of films during the past decade, David Cronenberg blows a tire with Cosmopolis.
Lifeless, stagey and lacking a palpable subversive pulse despite the ready opportunities offered by the material, this stillborn adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel initially will attract some Robert Pattinson fans but will be widely met with audience indifference.
DeLillo’s short, chilly 2003 book adopted a Ulysses-like format of a man’s journey across a city in a single day to presciently foresee the anarchic “Occupy” mentality rising up to protest the financial shenanigans of the ultra-rich. The means of conveyance is a white stretch limo; to those in Cannes who have seen Leos Carax’s controversial, much wilder Holy Motors, in which the central character wends through Paris in a day in the same vehicle, the coincidence begs the question of whether Carax knew about DeLillo’s novel.
By contrast, Cronenberg’s film is remarkably prosaic, confined through long stretches to the dark and narrow interior of the car, only to be concluded by a static half-hour final scene that feels like a two-character Off-Off-Broadway play.
Pattinson’s Eric Packer, not yet 30, is a brilliant financial visionary who never puts a foot wrong. With billions at his disposal, he practices rarefied and enormously profitable business strategies incomprehensible even to his colleagues while cocooning himself in an enormous apartment and his sound- and bulletproof car.
This day, his whim is to travel across Midtown Manhattan, east to west, to get a haircut. His bodyguard Torval (Kevin Durand) warns him about the complications presented by a presidential motorcade, resultant protests and what he terms “credible threats” against Eric’s own life. But the cold young man, presiding from what resembles a black leather throne in the middle of the car’s back seat, feels aloof from physical danger.
One by one, figures from his life join him in the car or for brief pit stops at a diner or bookstore: His blond wife (Sarah Gadon), whom he doesn’t seem to know that well or spend much time with; his art dealer (Juliette Binoche), who vigorously screws him and talks to him about a “Rothko chapel” that has become available; a financial guru (Samantha Morton), who warns that, “Something will happen soon”; a mad “pie assassin” (Mathieu Amalric), who achieves his longstanding goal of creaming the elusive Eric in the face; and a man (K’naan) with whom Eric commiserates about the sudden death of a charismatic black musician whose funeral procession is causing further traffic chaos.
On the page and on film, Eric is a controlled and controlling figure, a man impervious to society’s norms who one must feel has a mind operating well beyond the capacities of mere mortals. He’s utterly humorless and without detectable compassion or accessible humanity, which makes him less than companionable as a character. Pattinson doesn’t help matters by revealing nothing behind the eyes and delivering nearly all his lines with the same rhythm and intonations, plus repetitive head nods in the bargain. It’s a tough character that perhaps a young Jeremy Irons could have made riveting, but Pattinson is too bland and monotonous to hold the interest.