Robert Pattinson tries to distance himself from the Twilight Saga with David Cronenberg’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 2003 novel Cosmopolis.
The story concerns Eric Packer, a 28 year old market analyst billionaire who travels around town in a white stretch limo while his fortunes slip away. He entertains many a passenger philosophising with each and slowly becomes more unhinged as the day progresses. Finally finding the barber he has been searching for from the opening scene he ends up realising the expected threat on his life isn’t as far fetched as he previously thought.
The question with any adaptation is will it translate to the big screen? With Cosmopolis the answer is a resounding no. I haven’t read the novel but imagine the screenplay is faithful enough. The joy with any book is the luxury to re-read a line to soak up all the minute detail of every sentence and fully comprehend what the author is trying to accomplish. This is quite hard to achieve on film, especially one that is so dialogue heavy. You can’t pause and reflect on the meaning of a phrase as the next fives scenes have whizzed past.
This is an almost an “anti silence” film so far removed from those that have done so well of late (Drive, No Country for Old Men, There Will be Blood). Each scene is bulging with dialogue and metaphors, pondering on the meaning of life, existence and relationships. It feels incredibly claustrophobic and repetitive as about three quarters of the film is set in the bright white limousine. You become bogged down in the dialogue, unable to fully appreciate Cronenberg’s direction, it’s only in the quieter moments that you can relax and look around taking in the world he has created.
Seven people walked out during the screening I attended which was quite understandable as the piece is incredibly hard going, especially after a day’s work. Two of the walkouts may just have been there as they saw Robert Pattinson on the poster of the film and felt intrigued.
What makes Cosmopolis so difficult is that it’s impossible to warm to any of the characters. With such detached dialogue, each protagonist feels like a program implanted into a robot from the eighties. This is obviously a comment on the vacuousness nature of the business world and how capitalists are really all heartless pigs unconcerned by the trials of the proles. Nothing new is coming to light here, and throw in the uprising or revolution of sorts and it makes it so very of the moment.
I was reminded of what Harrison Ford was supposed to have said to Lucas upon reading the script for Star Wars, “you can type this shit but you sure as hell can’t say it”. A novel like DeLillo’s has to be studied and digested at leisure and can’t just be thrown up onto the screen. Pattinson does a fine job at playing a soulless robot devoid of emotions making you unable to feel any compassion for the character. The supporting roles are fine with none standing out apart from Paul Giamatti. The role of Giamatti in the film precludes me from saying too much for fear of spoilers but it is his scene that saves the film on some level. Although not that original in content, the manner of his delivery shows his brilliance once again.
Some novels are impossible to film as logistically they could never work and the written word can give us imagery at the stroke of a pen that the film industry would spend an eternity trying to recreate. Sometimes there is simply no point as the style or use of language is the driving factor which film can rarely capture.
A pretty pointless foray with few redeeming qualities. Give me Wall Street any day.
France, Canada / Directed By: David Cronenberg / Written By: David Cronenberg / Starring: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton, Mathieu Amalric, Jay Baruchel, Kevin Durand / 108min / Drama / Release: 8 June 2012 (Canada), 15 June 2012 (UK/Irl), 17 August 2012 (US)