Maps to the Stars (2014)

Review #1,103

Director:  David Cronenberg
Cast:  Julianne MooreMia WasikowskaRobert Pattinson, John Cusack, Olivia Williams
Plot:  A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity, one another and the relentless ghosts of their pasts.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Won Best Actress and nom. for Palme d'Or (Cannes).  Nom. for 1 Golden Globe - Best Leading Actress (Comedy/Musical).
Runtime:  111min
Rating:  R21 (cut!) for strong disturbing violence and sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some drug material.

“I think you are a little crazy.”

There is Robert Pattinson and his limousine, but this is no Cosmopolis (2012), the critically-panned effort by Canadian auteur David Cronenberg.  His follow-up, Maps to the Stars, is thankfully one of his better pictures post-2000s, but I say that with a bit of reservation. 

Winning Best Actress at Cannes for Julianne Moore, the film also stars Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack and Olivia Williams.  It is one of those films that is narratively befuddling, and while things don’t quite make sense, it holds up as a biting anti-Hollywood satire. 

Moore plays Havana, an actress desperate to play a role in a remake of a movie that her late mother starred in.  In typical overly dramatic mode, Moore becomes an ego-obsessed woman haunted by the ghost of her past.  I can’t say I like her performance, but it is effective. 

I used to admire Moore’s acting ability, but in recent films like Don Jon (2013) and Carrie (2013), she has become a caricature of herself.  On the other hand, Wasikowska and Williams continue to do good work in front of the camera, while the rest of the cast are just okay.

Cronenberg’s clinical style can feel detached, and in Maps to the Stars, he doesn’t quite get the tone right for some scenes.  The overall feel of the picture though remains true to what he is trying to explore, or rather expose – the underbelly of what’s wrong with Hollywood today, that is, greed, jealousy, pride, fame, and lots of drugs to hold everything together, if only to destroy one’s life in spectacular fashion. 

In Maps to the Stars, Cronenberg tries to mix a bit of hallucinatory horror with a drama of normalcy, something like channeling David Lynch, but without great results.  At least, he gets the violence and the weird stuff right. 

Ultimately, the movie is a satire of sorts, so one should find something funny, but it isn’t always so.  There are a lot of industry references and jargon, which I suspect will bore the average moviegoer.  However, if you are into it, and if Cronenberg still excites you, do give this a try. 

Some movies are meh; one doesn’t quite like or dislike it.  But if it’s any consolation, Maps to the Stars evoked strong reactions from me.  I liked and disliked it at the same time.  If that is the mark of a provocateur, I would like to think that Cronenberg can still pull the punches.  He also needs a stronger screenwriter to back him up.

Verdict:  Cronenberg mixes the weird with the normal in this anti-Hollywood satire that is biting, but doesn't quite touch the clouds. 


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