Cosmopolis | Movie review
David Cronenberg adapts Don DeLillo’s fever dream of our here and now.
From David Cronenberg, the director of Naked Lunch and Crash, comes something truly perverse: a vision of capitalism’s decline, as seen through the blinkered eyes—and tinted car windows—of a billionaire too coolly detached to mourn even the collapse of his own empire. True to its source, a spookily prophetic 2003 best-seller from Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis is rich with topicality: Protesters hoist rodent dolls, Occupy-style, as power players cause seismic ripples in the economic landscape. Yet that description makes the film sound like a leaden lecture about How We Live, when it’s closer in spirit, and texture, to a fever dream like Cronenberg’s own Videodrome.
Who better than dead-eyed pinup boy Robert Pattinson to play a young Wall Street bloodsucker? Traversing Manhattan in a stretch limousine, in pursuit of a haircut or maybe something more, R. Patz’s Eric glides from one loaded, bizarrely stilted tête-à-tête to another. Climbing into the back of his car or meeting him in restaurants or hotel rooms are the various figures caught in the orbit of his wealth and power: a vigilant head of security (Kevin Durand), an icy-blond princess of a wife (Sarah Gadon) and a revolving guest list of gurus, advisers and mistresses. Swiping entire passages from DeLillo’s text, Cronenberg—in his first screenplay since eXistenZ—has constructed an episodic, thrillingly abstruse study in the way communication itself has been fundamentally reshaped by a global culture of excess.
There are reckonings in store for Eric—financial, personal and otherwise—and as the film hurtles toward his comeuppance, it loses some of its bewitching power. But oh, those conversations: Monied players speak of everything and nothing, in a hyperstylized shop talk that’s practically an alien language, basking in what one character calls the “glow of cyber-capital.” Watching Cosmopolis, it’s hard to say if you’re witnessing a revelation or a crock, but you’ll hang on its every word.