Cosmopolis, the latest effort from David Cronenberg after the distinctly lacklustre A Dangerous Method, is very much a film of its time, feeling remarkably prescient in today’s current economic climate. Utter wealth coupled with riots and strikes, Cosmopolis sees the young, incredibly wealthy Eric Packer (a remarkable turn from Robert Pattinson) make his way across Manhattan upon the pretext of receiving a haircut. As he travels in his luxurious car, Packer both continually assesses his current financial venture, as well as holding meetings with various acquaintances, each making their own distinctive impression.
Packer, newly wed, frequently happens upon his new young wife; the pair are clearly strangers to one another, and as Eric indulges in numerous infidelities, his wife Elise (Sarah Gadon) remarks, almost disinterestedly, that he smells of sex. Elise, a burgeoning poet, refuses to have sex with Packer whilst she is working, requiring the need to reserve her energy for her creative outputs. The pair exist clearly apart from one another, and Packer appears to have little feeling towards anyone, often seeming a mere empty shell of a man.
Some may question the narrative, feeling that the stylish direction (at all times utterly involving) belies a shallow plot, but perhaps that is rather the point: the film is surely making a truly profound statement about the very emptiness of such an existence; Cosmopolis’ existential, nihilistic quality remains wonderfully Kafkaesque . One visitor to Packer’s limo questions his wanton sending of money as he expresses a desire to purchase numerous priceless works of art, questioning what such spending is like. Cronenberg’s film doesn’t attempt to offer any solutions, but rather involves its audience in Packer’s questionably soulless existence, prompting them away from any passivity.
The cast, including Juliette Binoche and Samantha Morton, are all wonderful, but there is little doubt that this remains, at all times, Pattinson’s film. Gone is the teen angst that so appealed to the Twilight fan base,Pattinson’s Packer is, despite his relative youth, entirely world-weary, exhausted and eventually disillusioned, remaining at all times eminently watchable. Cosmopolis may be a film borne out of the current economic climate, but its continued relevance is not to be underestimated.