I read this short Don DeLilo novel several years ago upon the recommendation of my father. He thought I might enjoy and could possibly even relate to the personality of the main character, a 28 year old billionaire who employs a distant, yet matter of fact way of going about his business, financial transactions, doctor’s appointments (including a very intense prostate exam while carrying on a meeting with an employee), and sexual trysts, all within the confines of his stretch white limousine and who vaguely embodies some of the estranged characteristics of Camus’ Merseault.
David Cronenberg (one of my favorite directors- especially of Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method, and A History of Violence) takes on the difficult task of setting DeLilo’s tale to screen. The story, taking place place in a mere 24 hours, revolves around the self-absorbed finance whiz who claims to accomplish one thing, and one thing only, to get a hair cut. His drive across mid-town Manhattan to accomplish this seemingly simple task gets interrupted by several meetings (again almost all of them conducted within the confines of the half tank, half mobile home-like limo), some personal and some business, and also gets derailed, as New York is overrun with crowds due to an impending visit from the fictional President of the United States, the funeral procession of a local hip-hop legend (and a favorite of Eric’s, the main character), and increasingly violent protests by mobs of anarchists. None of these events (other than the funeral) really seem to bother Eric, nor do they make him believe his chief of security and his detection of “high threat levels,” at least high enough to warrant putting off the trim.
When I first heard that ‘Cosmopolis,’ would make a run at the silver screen, I was thrilled with the choice of Cronenberg as a director, but not with that of Robert Pattison (known to me only for his lead role in the ‘Twilight’ saga). Sure they needed a young, attractive, and talented male lead; however, given the focus on Eric’s role throughout the film, particularly within the confined nature of the limo, where most of the film is shot, I think this was a major let down of the production.
According to one Slate article, Cronenberg was bound by production laws to only use one American actor in the feature, an honor he gave to Paul Giamatti who only really appears in the film’s climax and notably one of the most eventful scenes throughout.
All in all, Cronenberg made the best out of the actor he chose to work with and the difficult to-adapted screenplay, full of highfalutin dialogue and strange financial and apocalyptic themes. I couldn’t lump this one into the same category of some of my favorites by Cronenberg (listed earlier) or on the same level as Spike Lee’s ‘25th hour,’ which also takes on the challenging task of bringing to life characters and weaving a story within the confines of 24-hours (again adapted from a novel, this time from David Benioff).