Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Robert Pattinson (‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2’), Paul Giamatti and Sarah Gadon (‘A Dangerous Method’)
The rich often live a life the majority of the world envies, as they have the freedom and power to do whatever they desire. But with the current recession plaguing America, the struggling working class often takes their frustrations out on the higher economical classes. The continuous struggle is showcased in director-writer David Cronenberg’s upcoming drama, ‘Cosmopolis,’ which sets out to showcase how quickly job and monetary security can deteriorate, against a philosophical backdrop.
‘Cosmopolis’ follows a day in the life of 28-year-old financial mastermind Eric Packer (played by Robert Pattinson), a billionaire asset manager as he heads out in his stretch limo to get a haircut from his father’s old barber. Along the way, Eric becomes distracted as he decides to wager his company’s massive fortune on a bet against the Chinese Yuan. He must also contend with explosive riots that are plaguing New York City, as well as a parade of provocative visitors. While enjoying his powerful lifestyle, Eric must also try to reduce the jealousy of his new wife, Elise (portrayed by Sarah Gadon), a member of the influential and rich Shifrin family, who wants an emotional connection from their business relationship.
Based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Don DeLillo, ‘Cosmopolis’ succeeds in showcasing modern America’s obsession with achieving unlimited amounts of power, money and control in the business world. Eric heavily relies on, and uses to his advantage, not only his colleagues, but the people in his personal life as well. He becomes so overly confident in his business skills, and comes to only truly care about his work, that he doesn’t think anything of alienating those closest to him, such as Elise.
Cronenberg also stunningly brought DeLillo’s foreshadowing of the financial and cultural turmoil that was set off by the 2008 global economic crash through his visually contrasting settings. The places Eric frequents for his job and his own enjoyment throughout the day, including a glamorous restaurant with Elise, showcase the perks and benefits having money can bring. But as Eric experiences the riots brought on by the working class, who’s struggling to survive in the economic downfall, and travels through New York’s poorer neighborhoods, he finally comes to realize the extreme deprivations the majority of the world has come to face.
While ‘Cosmopolis’ is another exemplary example of Cronenberg’s fearless take on the social woes of contemporary society, his almost word-for-word adaptation of DeLillo’s novel at times makes the drama at times confusing and hard to follow. The plot of the film seems straightforward and reflective of the problems plaguing modern society. However, the at-times overly technical, philosophical discussions between Eric and his colleagues, friends and the other people he encounters makes it seem at times that the filmmaker is more concerned with the elegance of his art than truly connecting the audience with the characters and the story.
Overall, ‘Cosmopolis,’ the first film adaptation of any of DeLillo’s novels, unfortunately supports the film industry’s questioning of whether the author’s books could successfully be translated onto the screen. Besides the highly charged language that’s riddled with double meanings behind Eric’s discussions about America’s assets, the financial thriller contains too many post-modern philosophical ideas. While Eric does question the chaos that’s happening in his own life, and with the economically challenged rioting on the streets, he doesn’t seem to embrace DeLillo’s declaration that people should challenge themselves.
As Eric tries to distance himself from the outside world by spending most of his day conducting his business in his sound-proof limo, ‘Cosmopolis’ shows the balance of power and ever-increasing divide between the extremely wealthy and the working class struggling to survive. The clashing visuals between the everyday norms the asset manager and the rioters experience truly captures the meaningful message Cronenberg took away from DeLillo’s book. However, the philosophical discussions Eric continuously engages in unfortunately takes away from the action and message the filmmaker aimed to highlight.
Written by: Karen Benardello