"As the day wears on, it becomes clear that Eric has lost his fortune and that he doesn’t really seem to mind. At one point he even kills someone without a second thought. The only things he appears to care about are having copious amounts of sex, his asymmetrical prostate and getting that haircut.
There’s probably some deeper message here about money’s inability to fulfill insatiable appetites. But the film’s takeaway seems best summed up by the first limo visitor, played by Jay Baruchel, who wonders: Do you ever get the feeling you have no idea what’s going on?"
And these are two paragraphs from Glenn Kenny from MSN, who said:
"I've seen people referring to Packer as a character whose rapacious greed has stripped him of his humanity, and, boy, does that miss the point. Capitalism, after all, is a human invention, not a manifestation of "natural law" or any such thing. It is not for nothing that the only time in the movie the word "love" is uttered it's in reference to a unit of currency, and that the person speaking of this love is Packer's nemesis and antithesis. DeLillo's novel was written in 2003 but is set in 2000, and Cronenberg's movie is set in an unspecified now, but it neglects the implied 9/11 resonances of the book in favor of a fantastic emphasis on Occupy Wall Street-type movements/insurrections. However, the point both works are making is that all of this terror is part of the same possibly inescapable ball of wax. There's something far more deeply despairing beneath the droll allegory of how capitalism can't move across a dozen city blocks without leaving a bunch of charred wreckage in its wake.
"Cosmopolis offers no way out from not just the doom that is inevitable for all of us but also for the doom we will ourselves into every day. But what it does is make you look at the world differently when you come out of the theater (and that's what all the best Cronenberg work does). What you do after that is up to you."
The definition for "juxtaposition" is as such (from Dictionary.com): an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
The above quotes, differing in opinion, set one-atop-the-other (my best attempt at side-by-side) is an example of juxtaposition. This word, juxtaposition, will prove important in the assessment.
Director: David Cronenberg
Not very happy: Robert Pattinson
Sex partner #1: Juliette Binoche
Sex partner #1.5: Emily Hampshire
Sex partner #2: Patricia McKenzie
Doesn't like his real name: Paul Giamatti
Loves playing bodyguard type people: Kevin Durand
Reminded me of Amy Farrah Fowler: Samantha Morton
Poor Elise: Sarah Gadon
Remi Gaillard: Mathieu Amalric
Fucking killed it: K'naan
What It's Good For:
-seeing what happens when a rat becomes the unit of currency
-have your mind turned upside down
-the plot is non-traditional, psychological-arc rather than a dramatic-arc
-not everyone likes R-Pattz
-not everyone likes the dialogue
-a lot of people don't get what's going on
-could bore you
Cosmopolis is a psychological tale, not a dramatic one. What I mean by that: the arc isn't one of antagonist/protagonist. It isn't something like Take Me Home Tonight where we have Topher Grace trying to overcome being scared/Topher Grace, and trying to nab Teresa Palmer.
Traditionally, a plot depends on tension between Person vs. Person, or Person vs. Self, or Person vs. Nature.
So Take Me Home Tonight is Person vs. Self + Person vs. Person. Where "versus" doesn't always have to be construed as Good Guy vs. Bad Guy. In the case of Take Me Home Tonight, Grace is against Palmer, but only in the fact that she doesn't see him as a romantic interest and he wants to change her opinion. For the PvS, Grace isn't trying to beat himself, he's trying to overcome negative aspects of his personality.
Cosmopolis does none of this. Eric Packer (Pattinson), isn't trying to improve. He isn't facing an enemy. He isn't trying to convince a girl to sleep with him the way Topher Grace is (Packer is trying to convince his wife to sleep with him, but I'll get to that later, hold your horses.) He isn't a plane crash survivor trying to make his way through a forest full of tenacious wolves.
From an interview with Pattinson: "It was disturbing to play a character who doesn’t go through an obvious evolution or follow a predictable path. Actually he does, it is even a hell of an evolution, although not in the way we usually get to see characters change."
What Eric Packer is doing is decimating the totality of his possessions.
And he doesn't even know this at first. At first, he's just...off. This is why he is avoiding the office, demanding a haircut to avoid the office. All of his employees ask Eric "Why don't you just go to the office?" Eric sticks to his haircut idea, because it's something concrete he can attach to while not understanding what it is he really wants.
Then he sees Arthur Rapp get an eye-gouged out on national television. Hm. Eric smiles. The very next scene brings us Jane Melman. When Eric tells her "The yuan can't go any higher," she gives him the grim news: "That's true. That's right. Except it just did." Then comes the doctor. This is important. Juxtaposition in a narrative is important. The doctor ends up telling Eric Eric has an asymmetrical prostate.
What three things just occurred, boom, boom, boom?
Eric sees a man assassinated. Eric is told he's wrong. Eric's told there's something asymmetrical in his body.
A key line has to do with a growth on Eric's side. Eric asks about the growth on his side, and the doctor says, "Let it express itself." Eric's bid for decimation is something that is expressing itself like a tumor, growing larger and more malignant with each passing scene. And it is started by the three things that just occurred: watching someone die, a nut-shot to the ego, and being reminded of your own mortality.
The next juxtaposition is the arrival of the Rat Brigade into the diner as Eric is eating with Elise. Here Eric is repeating what had already happened this morning: a meal with Elise, attempts to get Elise to have sex with him. And this repetition, this next-step to routine, is ruined by the arrival of the protesters. Voices speak in unison, rats are thrown. Eric, again, smiles. We cut to a new scene.
The Chief of Theory + A Fucking Full-Blown Riot.
If the limo is symbolic of anything, it's Eric Packer. At the start of the movie, the limo is, like Eric, sleek, fancy, over-the-top, nigh indistinguishable, from the exterior, from the other limos unless you know what to look for, and, interiorly, ahead-of-the-technological-curve. In other words, Eric is, as the start of the movie, sleek, fancy, over-the-top, appears to strangers as just-another 1%-er, but is an individual unlike anyone else, having found success thanks to his neural hardware. By the end of the movie, the limo is a fucking wreck, just like Eric with his terrible hair cut, crazy eyes, and disheveled clothing. The limo is literally parked underground mere minutes before Eric dies!!! (by the way, in case you're wondering, that is juxtaposition rearing its head again).
What's the limo have to do with the (The Chief of Theory + A Fucking Full-Blown Riot) equation? It's at this height of philosophical discussion and introspection the limo is battered and wounded by the rioters. And when we see this:
Vija's (CoT) reaction to this is "It's not original".
Eric responds with "Hey. What's original? He did it, didn't he?"
"It's an appropriation."
"He poured the gasoline and lit the match." (Eric)
"All those Vietnamese monks, one after another, in all their lotus positions."
"Imagine the pain. Sit there and feel it." (that was Eric)
"Immolating themselves endlessly."
"To say something. To make people think." (Eric)
"It's not original."
Eric fucking smiles.
The rioters want to bring a system crashing down. They have a motive. They're expressing their motive. And their expression is having a profound impact on one Mr. Eric Packer. Their attack on his limo inspires in Eric an idea to attack his own possessions. And the burning man has revealed the ultimate conclusion. Furthermore, if the limo represents Eric, then the rioters in this scene function both as a physical representation of whatever is bothering Eric, of the pressures of his life, but also represent the desire for an anarchic revolution Eric is feeling in his own head, of fighting against his routines, of breaking free from what his life has built to.
The two talk further, about Eric's Blackjack bomber plane, then about death/obsolescence. Using juxtaposition again, we have: material possession followed by talk of erosion. From a Freudian view of the id, ego, and super-ego: this conversation is ego-directed, organized information being expressed by someone who is aware of what they are expressing, but it's conversation dredged up from the interests of the id, the subconscious: this stuff, possession and dying, are the things swirling in the psychic depths of Eric Packer. The super-ego, the thing which plays Devil/Angel on the shoulder, Judge/Jury, has left the building.
In the novel, this is where Part I ends and Part II begins. Which is a substantial sign that a dramatic shift has just occurred. Nothing quite so obvious happens in the movie, we simply cut to Eric having sex with his female bodyguard. This may seem like a simple act: we've seen Eric have sex once already and also have the most intense staring contest ever. He's asked his wife for sex multiple times. "Eric just likes to fuck. So he's fucking." But don't forget, Eric is a genius. He has made his fortune on predictions. Elise commented once about Eric smelling of sex. She was displeased. Here he is again. Having sex. Part of him knows what's going to happen when he sees her next. Or at least hopes what will happen when he sees her next. That she'll deny him. That she'll hate him. That she'll divorce him. WHAT HAPPENS IN THE VERY NEXT SCENE? Juxtaposition baby.
But what also happens during the Eric/Elise Breakup Dinner: Eric tells Elise that his company's portfolio has been reduced to smithereens thanks to the yuan, and there's a credible threat on his life. "It's okay. It's fine. It makes me feel free in a way I've never known."
The next juxtaposition occurs during the rave. Danko, the third bodyguard, says he thinks the kids in the rave are on drugs, the new drug, novo, the one that takes pain away, but he doesn't understand what pain these kids have, they're just kids, what pain do they know. Eric responds with "There's pain enough for everybody now." Eric then asks where Torval is. He then asks if Danko has ever killed anyone. What's being revealed here is the idea Eric is in pain. We should know this already. His life is falling apart. But the life falling apart isn't the cause of the pain. The pain is the cause, not the effect. Eric destroying his life is the effect caused by the pain. He's seeking the same thing as these kids: release from pain.
What happens next: a cut to Torval and Eric discussing the threat. The threat which becomes Eric's source of release. SEE THE JUXTAPOSITION THAT JUST HAPPENED???? And don't forget foreshadowing.
Then what happens? Kozmo Thomas enters the limo and tells Eric Brotha Fez is dead. Eric is shocked, shocked he hasn't heard, shocked that Fez died of natural causes. The two exchange stories then cry--whatever effervescent source was causing Eric's pain is concentrated into the loss of his friend, into the loss of the artist whose music plays in Eric's second elevator. Cut to Eric getting pied by the pastry assassin. Torval grabs the man. Eric kicks the guy in the balls, chases some of the assassin's photographers. The violence incites more violence. Immediately following the departure of the Whipped-Cream Wonder, Eric shoots Torval from underneath the jaw, a vertical shot ascending through Torval's head. Again, we have an ego-based action driven by the id. The subconscious has processed the pain of Fez's death and the violence of the PA encounter, and what emerges is a violent step forward on Eric's march for self-dissolution.
The next scene is the haircut, finally. Eric arriving at the place he received his first haircut. Tended to by the barber who knew Eric's father, who gave Eric his first haircut. We're at the beginning of Eric Packer. We have traveled from present to past. Along the way, Eric's Future's trajectory has had its hamstrings cut, has fallen to the ground and is writhing in pain and confusion. Next to the future is the bleeding-out body of Eric's Present. The only thing left for Eric to murder is his past.
Which is why it's fitting Benno Levin is a type of specter haunting Eric, a former employee who is obsessed with Eric, who knows everything about Eric. Who declares, at one point in the conversation he and Eric have, that "It's all history. The whole thing is history."
Just to confirm for you I am not crazy, that this movie is about unraveling, Levin says, "Even when you self-destruct, you want to fail more, lose more, die more than others, stink more than others. In the old tribes the chief who destroyed more of his property than the other chiefs was the most powerful." (Also, read this).
This is what you just witnessed. A tribal warlord destroying his property, assaulting his own existence while it's at its peak, in response to the feeling he has peaked, that he is a thing, like the word "computer", already becoming obsolete, and instead of going quietly into the night, he sets himself on fire and touches everything he can that's flammable.
So for the Stephanie Merry's of the world, I hope this clarifies for you what happened. The point to take away from Cosmopolis is justification of being. The movie ends with two men at different ends of the spectrum. Eric has everything to lose by continuing to exist; after reaching the height he has reached, with his disposition, ego-over-everything, what justification for being can he possibly think of? Benno has nothing, is living as nothing, would die as nothing, is in desperate need for justification. They find each other. They strike a deal.
Eric depended too much on a thing with a shelf-life: power. Benno, having existed as a wisp for so long sought a total reversal-of-infamy. Both acted stupidly. Both went to extremes. What we're really seeing is someone who is trying to hold on to first place and can't possibly conceive of existing in any other position, and someone who is in last place and can't find a way forward. In other words: falling behind and not being able to get ahead. Albert Pujols had, for his first ten years as a Major League Baseball player, a batting average above .300. This is impressive. Last year he hit .299. This year he is at .287. How is he dealing with his decline? Compare Albert to the high school player who is the backup center fielder for the Varsity softball team, who hasn't been good enough to start, who may never be good enough to start. This girl wants to play professional softball. How does she deal with her seeming inadequacy? If you own a house, cleaning is something you can fall behind on. It's also something that, once you're so far behind, you can't seem to make progress on. You can fall behind on a friendship. You can fail to convince some guy at a bar to like you.
Cosmopolis is about what gets us up every day, the thing that motivates us through the day, and what our relationship is with this entity, and how this relationship affects every other relationship we have.
When you finish watching Cosmopolis, don't look at the world. Look at yourself. What gets you up every day and motivates you through the day? Is it something you can fall behind on (like you're already a good wife, you just need to maintain)? Or is it something you have to make progress toward (like getting good grades so you can get into grad school)? What is your relationship to this entity? And how does it affect every other relationship you have? Are you happy? If not, how can you increase your happiness (without killing)? If you are, how can you maintain it (without killing)?
Did I Like It:
It's a masterpiece. For the story alone it's a masterpiece. But it's definitely my favorite Cronenberg work (granted, I haven't seen everything). And I think it's the finest thing Pattinson has done to this point. I mean, it's right in his lack-of-expression wheelhouse, but I like it here. I find it amusing in his other roles, but here I think it fits. Right tool for the job sort of thing. And the performances from the rest of the actors are all great.
I love the dialogue. I love the fact the first half of the film is contained in the limo then with the last half we break free of the limo more and more until the limo is gone altogether.
I find the movie strangely motivating. It's a dark movie. But it...makes me want to live better than Eric did.
Note, this is also my favorite novel. For the same thematic reasons discussed in the conclusion of the Assessment.
I love the fact the plot is a-traditional.
I love the visuals.
It's maybe a little cheesy Benno happens to live right across the street from where the limo gets parked. And he happens to be looking out of the window just when Eric is standing in the street. But. Whatever.
For anyone complaining about "How did Eric know what floor Benno was on?!", remember, Eric is a genius. He had clues from the shout of "Eric Michael Packer" and the second gun shot. If there's something to question, it's why Benno went from firing at Eric to the bathroom? The probable explanation? Benno is a fucking lunatic.
Giamatti rocked it.
MECCA! Can I tell you how much I love this and wish it had another verse or two?
I love this song too.
Such a cool fucking movie.
% Character / % Actor's personality / Uniqueness Grade
-Non-traditional plot: Last Year at Marienbad
-Long time in one enclosed location: Buried; Speed; Daylight
-Self-destruction to achieve peace: Fight Club; Gladiator; A Knight's Tale; Aladdin; Mulan; Black Swan; The Wrestler
-Self-destruction without meaning to: Ran; Titanic; Lion King (Scar)
-Trying to stop self-destruction: Lost in Translation; Another Earth; Lion King (Simba); Batman Begins