Directed by David Cronenberg, who adapted it from Don DeLillo’s 2003 novel, “Cosmopolis” is a deeply subversive, deeply intelligent movie for grown-ups. It’s also a brilliant vehicle for Cronenberg’s pet theme: the elusive point at which thought meets the human body.
A million miles from “Twilight,” Robert Pattinson stars as Eric Packer, a 28-year-old multibillionaire.
“We want a haircut,” he announces to his security man (Kevin Durand), referring to himself in the plural. And he is two people: a figurehead who symbolizes wealth as well as a flesh-and-blood human being.
And so he sets off on a long, one-day odyssey across New York City, riding in an absurd stretch limo, creeping through sinister traffic clogged by a visit from the U.S. president and the funeral of a hip-hop star.
While riding, he meets with several people — employees, consultants, advisers and what have you — but also his doctor for his daily checkup. The doctor announces that Packer has an “asymmetrical prostate.”
He also runs into his new wife (Sarah Gadon) three times, and each time invites her to eat. They sometimes talk about sex. But in the meantime, Packer sleeps with two mistresses (Juliette Binoche and Patricia McKenzie) during the course of the day.
Finally, in addition to these bodily functions and fluids, blood is added to the mixture, as Packer faces off with a man who wishes to kill him.
The movie’s dialogue is a thing of beauty, glorious phrases that tickle the actors’ tongues and then dissipate far too quickly. They describe business, money, wealth, deals and similar matters in airy, dreamy terms as the city creeps by silently out the limo’s windows.
But it’s humans that have these ideas, and humans sweat, get hungry, get tired, crave sex and feel anxiety and pain. As the movie progresses, Packer gets more and more disheveled, losing his sunglasses, tie and jacket, finally ending up with pie in his hair and half a haircut.
Cronenberg weaves from Packer’s quest for perfection to a time when the would-be killer refers to the “beauty of the lopsided.”
“Cosmopolis,” not an easy movie, is worth the effort.
It taps into our dark and troubled financial times not by cursing the rich, but by viewing them as distorted. Highly sheltered, they move in weird directions, like plants bending to find the sunlight. And nothing, not even $10 billion, can stop them from being human.
Starring Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Mathieu Amalric
Written and directed by David Cronenberg
Running time 1 hour, 48 minutes