Fever Dream


Dostoyevsky famously said all Russian literature emerged from under Gogol’s “Overcoat.” Most of Don DeLillo’s fiction seems delivered from a dingy basement room rented by Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man. In fact, DeLillo’s Cosmopolis, now faithfully adapted to the screen by David Cronenberg, features two undergroundlings of the spirit. One of them is deceptively wealthy and smugly at ease, a seeming master of the universe: Eric Packer, a twenty-eight-year-old asset manager who, on an April day in 2000, decides to cross Manhattan in his stretch limousine to get a haircut in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of his youth. During this trek, which turns into a crawl because of a presidential visit to the city, the young billionaire keeps looking at a computer screen to check on the progress of his risky bet that the yuan will plunge in value. It doesn’t.

The limo, an office/apartment on wheels, contains innumerable gadgets, a bar, and equipment for Eric’s daily medical exam. Along the way he picks up his firm’s head of technology, his wife of the last twenty-two days, his doctor, his chief of finance, his mistress (doubling as his art dealer), and his court philosopher, who expounds the metaphysics of global capitalism.

The limo floats through a Boschian cityscape. Anti–Wall Street protestors are rioting, flinging dead rats around in restaurants; death threats have been issued against...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.