Now Playing: Life in Cronenbergia

‘Cosmopolis’ is an interesting departure from David Cronenberg’s recent straightforward feature films. It’s a movie that left me feeling bitter and cold, and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing quite yet.

The reason I say this is that I think ‘Cosmopolis’ is supposed to make you feel bitter and cold. It’s a not-so-subtle commentary on the decadence of Capitalism. No matter what we do, the rich will always shit on the poor. That’s the way the world is constructed and that’s how it’s going to stay, according to Cronenberg’s vision.

Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is obscenely rich. If he wasn’t such a serious, dour man, you could almost picture him retiring to his mansion and taking a Scrooge McDuck-like swim through his pool of gold and cash. However, Packer represents the soullessness and selfishness of the fat-cats of Wall Street. He has that “It’s my way or the highway” attitude, demonstrated by his insistence that he drive clear across Manhattan just to get a haircut. He’s determined to get there even though traffic will be a nightmare.

Along the way, Packer comes into contact with a variety of people who drift in and out of his limo like specters. They’re there one minute, and gone the next – everyone from co-workers, to his lover, to his wife. Packer meets an endless line of people who, curiously, are rarely ever seen physically entering the limo. They’re just there. I couldn’t help feeling that everything happening to Packer, all the people and his conversations, were somehow all in his head, as if his tortured rich ego was split up into all these varied personalities. This is the conclusion that seems most probable to me, but with ‘Cosmopolis’, nothing is probable. It’s all relative.

The movie is based on a novel by Don DeLillo that I haven’t read. My assumption is that the in-depth, multi-layered conversations play better in written form than they do in cinematic form. I’m not saying that this is a bad movie. Honestly, I don’t know what it is. I admit to being enthralled most of the time simply because my brain had no idea what was going on, even though I knew that there was a good chance I’d never find out.

‘Cosmopolis’ is expertly directed. 90% of the movie takes place in the back of Packer’s high-tech limo, yet Cronenberg has a way of making the space seem large. The movie never feels cramped or uncomfortable. I was impressed with the multitude of shots that the director is able to get in such a confined space. He also expertly creates tension, the kind where you’re not sure why you’re feeling tense at all. It’s not like its suspenseful tension. Instead, it’s a quietly bubbling tension that strings you along until Packer’s very last conversation. Does it ultimately pay off? I have no idea. The entire movie is an exercise in ambiguity. It’s a flashy, mind-altering movie about a rich dude in a limo who may or may not be dreaming this whole thing. See what I mean? It’s frustratingly vague, but it’s also a vagueness that I was eerily drawn to.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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