David Cronenberg’s latest film is a philosophical Odyssey through New York City
“A specter is haunting the world — the specter of capitalism.”
Billionaire Eric Packer wants a haircut.
Never mind that every hair on his sleek dark head is already impeccably coiffed — as elegant as the tailored designer suit that hangs off his lean hungry frame, as immaculate as his spotless white limousine.
Packer wants a haircut, and he’s willing to risk everything — including his personal safety and, possibly, sanity — to get it.
David Cronenberg’s new psychological drama, “Cosmopolis,” centers on Packer (Robert Pattison), a self-absorbed, sex-obsessed 28-year-old desperate for new sensations in a deadened world.
Recently wed to a airy heiress (Sarah Gadon), Packer has more money than he literally knows what to do with. He buys a military-grade plane, then leaves it rotting in a hangar — makes a bid for a priceless Mark Rothko painting, then pouts when the owners don’t want to sell the private chapel it hangs in.
This is a man who owns two elevators to ensure that the music always matches his mood.
So it comes as no surprise when Packer tells his security chief (Kevin Durand) and driver (Abdul Ayoola) that he intends to travel across town to visit his favorite barbershop, despite the fact that the president is in town and there’s a “credible threat” on his life.
“Barriers will be set up. Entire streets will be off the map,” the security chief warns. They’ll be moving through Manhattan in “quarter-inches,” not miles.
Packer, hermetically sealed in his stretch limo, doesn’t care. He’s more concerned about the fluctuating fate of the yuan than the activists flinging dead rats at coffee house patrons or the funeral procession winding through the streets.
Cronenberg presents Packer’s deliberate, dream-like journey through the streets of New York City as a sort of philosophical Odyssey — a dialogue-packed pilgrimage set against an increasingly chaotic backdrop.
It’s easy to lose track and even space as Packer entertains an endless parade of co-workers, confidants and seers in his sleek, cozy cocoon — slowly sipping vodka as the apocalypse rages outside.
Blink, and he’s engaged in sexual congress with an art dealer (Juliette Binoche). Blink again, and he’s listening to a coworker (Samantha Morton) muse about the nature of capitalism as screaming anarchists shake, spray-paint and pummel his car.
In one striking scene, he submits to a prostate exam in plain view of a sweat-drenched coworker (Emily Hampshire) who seems oddly aroused by that invasive act. In another, he’s attacked by a merry pie-wielding maniac (Mathieu Amalric) who claims to have “quiched the Sultan of Brunei in his bath.”
It’s all eerie and more than a little absurd.
With its stream-of-consciousness approach, “Cosmopolis” doesn’t have the immediacy of some of Cronenberg’s other work. Although the script is packed with interesting moments and fascinating performances — Paul Giamatti’s entrance late in the film is predictably riveting — the message, such as it is, seems rather muted.
What exactly is the director trying to say with his “limo as lifeboat” metaphor? How does Packer’s journey into the abyss mirror our own?
To quote one of Packer’s employees, a nervous security whiz (Jay Baruchel), “Do you ever get the feeling sometimes that you don’t know what’s going on?
“Cosmopolis” image courtesy of MovieWeb.com.
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