UK Release Date: 26th September 2014
Runtime: 112 minutes
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Bruce Wagner
Starring: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, Evan Bird, Olivia Williams
Synopsis: A satirical tale of nepotism, sex and corruption within the dark bowels of the Hollywood system.
He may be best known for torturing the very nature of humanity with his body horror works, such as The Fly and Videodrome, but David Cronenberg’s recent works have been weird and offbeat in a totally different way. A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis were both incredibly talky movies, rooted in character rather than catastrophe. His latest, Maps to the Stars, turns his unique gaze towards Hollywood – a system he has always shunned.
Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) is an ageing actress, doomed to exist in the shadow of her more famous mother. Looking for help around the house, she hires aspiring actress Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), who is in the midst of a burgeoning relationship with Jerome (Robert Pattinson). Meanwhile, child star Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird) is struggling to contain his ego on set, despite the support of his mother and father (Olivia Williams and John Cusack).
Maps to the Stars is a consistently intriguing, often infuriatingly opaque, satire of the inner workings of Hollywood. It shows, both literally and figuratively, the incest and nepotism within the system, as well as the brutality necessary to work your way to the top. It works as a stylised exaggeration of truth, which never feels dull.
| "On the stairs of Death, I write your name – Liberty."
Julianne Moore is simply sensational in the leading role. She scooped the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance as a talented performer, screwed-up by the mental and physical abuse inflicted by her considerably more famous mother. Without ever descending into caricature, Moore conveys insanity perfectly, balanced with a real vulnerability that gives Maps to the Stars a potent, consistent pulse.
Equally brilliant is Mia Wasikowska, in a dark role that recalls her twisted performance in the excellent Stoker. There’s something inherently cutesy about Wasikowska that makes her ability to portray dark edges all the more impressive. The more unhinged her character becomes during the course of Maps to the Stars, the more she grows into the role, creating a top-drawer performance.
The rest of the ensemble also impresses. Evan Bird does a great job as a douchebag child star, even as his true colours and historical issues are revealed. Robert Pattinson, too, does a great job, though Bruce Wagner’s script doesn’t give him nearly enough to do.
| "I think you are a little crazy."
Unfortunately, Maps to the Stars does fall down a little in that it doesn’t feel as Cronenbergian as it should. There’s a typically ghoulish hue to the truly dark moments, but Cronenberg is content to fade into the background in order to let the actors take centre stage. However, with the knowledge that Cronenberg’s unique perspective is lurking in the shadows, there’s always an elephant in the room.
Maps to the Stars is a solid satire of Hollywood from a man who has deliberately separated itself from its sordid insides. The low-budget leaves some moments feeling a little cheap and the complete message never shines through, but there’s real intrigue bubbling constantly beneath the surface.
Pop or Poop?
With a gleeful sense of humour lurking within and impressive blackness, Maps to the Stars has a lot to say about Hollywood, even if its message is often obscured beneath opaque allegory.
Moore, Wasikowska and Bird really shine amongst the glittering ensemble, unafraid to commit themselves to the vision of Cronenberg and writer Wagner.
It’s a forensic look at the dark heart of Hollywood, with flashes of chaos around every corner.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.