Great review by Mark Naglazas of The West Australian. One that I truly enjoyed reading, especially his positive comment about Rob towards the end – LOVE & completely agree. Rob did with Eric what no other actor could. His portrayal of Eric is just absolutely phenomenal. No arguments from any of us here I know.
I read Don DeLillo’s clinical dissection of NASDAQ-era hyper-capitalism Cosmopolis when it was published in 2003 and struggled to reconcile his extreme vision of America benumbed by greed and consumerism with the shattered country struggling to come to terms with 9/11 and the war in Iraq.
When I picked up the novel again ahead of the release of David Cronenberg’s big-screen adaptation I was shocked at the prescience of DeLillo, who seems to have been peering into the dark heart of the brewing GFC while the rest of us were obsessing over those non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
DeLillo is not a realist or a humanist in the mould of Tom Wolfe or Jonathan Franzen. His settings are pieced together from pop culture detritus and his characters are conduits for deeply pessimistic views of the ills of modern life, such as the all-consuming inanity of the mass media and the disintegration of the self.
But in the journey of young currency trader Eric Packer across a chaotic midtown Manhattan in a high-tech white stretch limo while betting billions on the subtlest movements of numbers flashing on computer screens, DeLillo gives us a startling, disturbing snapshot of the age of when “money is talking to itself” (the words belong to Eric’s chief of theory).
Such a chilly, restrictive and cerebral set-up (think Pinter or Beckett on wheels) seemed to be such unpromising movie material that even the author himself was surprised when the producers approached him for the rights (indeed, it is the first DeLillo novel to be filmed).
However, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect match of moviemaker and material than Cronenberg, whose own uncompromising and unsentimental films and concerns with technology and the body in the likes of Crash and eXistenZ chime beautifully with DeLillo’s own post-modernism misanthropy.
Needing a haircut in a traditional barbershop, 28-year-old billionaire Eric (Robert Pattinson) sets out in his limo that has been “Prousted”, that is, cork-lined to keep out the noise and decked out with an array of computers that keep him in touch with the world’s money markets.
With his head of security walking alongside, Eric is visited by, among others, his older lover (Juliette Binoche), with whom he has vigorous sex, his doctor, who checks out his “asymmetrical prostate”, and his currency analyst, who warns him that he is betting too heavily against a fall in the Chinese yuan. And he steps out to eat a meal with his beautiful, despairing young heiress wife (Sarah Gadon).
This all sounds glamorous in a soulless kind of way but a mood of existential despair pervades Eric’s pod as it travels through a swirling universe he understands only through abstractions such as TV screens and the numbers that tell him his fortune is in the process of being wiped out. And while raw, seething humanity in the shape of protesters push up against his windows and graffiti the limo and there is a terrorist threat from a disgruntled employee, they barely touch Eric as he seeks sexual gratification, intellectual stimulation, love (perhaps) and a haircut (the film’s Rosebud).
Many critics have criticised Cronenberg for replicating almost scene for scene DeLillo’s slender novel, right down to the highly mannered ideas-encrusted dialogue which is delivered without passion or spontaneity. One reviewer even complained the film lacked “heart”.
But this is the very subject of the movie – the replacement of heart and soul and all the human stuff by the brutal logic of “cyber-capitalism”, in which the fate of nations is now determined by the movement of numbers.
None of this quite emerges as forcefully and frighteningly as it does in the book but it’s hard to imagine an actor better in the role of Eric than Pattinson, who brings snap and intelligence to DeLillo’s death-haunted dialogue (Cronenberg has even suggested Eric is actually dead) at the same time as suggesting the man he once was.
If you thought his Edward Cullen was a cold bloodsucking parasite wait until you get a load of his Eric Packer.
Thanks so much to Roberta for the link.