‘Maps To The Stars’ Review

“Scathing take on the modern day film industry”


David Cronenberg‘s mix of ripping satire, surreal horror and the obsessive rise to climb the modern Hollywood ladder makes up this chilling ensemble character piece that delves into the darker world of instant fame and fortune. Even with the expensive clothes, cars and Hollywood lifestyle, the film attempts to see past that to a world of lies, quick fix fortune and broken promises. While Map To The Stars may not exactly be Cronenberg’s Mulholland Drive moment, there is still touches and hints of themes mirroring his ambition to reach the level of David Lynch’s masterpiece, moments you feel the director has experienced and finally wishing to explore on-screen from his long and illustrious career.

Celeb obsessed Agatha (played by Mia Wasikowska), a burns scarred daughter within an offbeat LA family, headed by self-help doctor Weiss (John Cusack), takes up the job of personal assistant to down and out aging movie star Havana (Julianne Moore). Meanwhile, her spoilt teen-star brother, Benji, is experiencing visions of a terminally ill fan he promised to make a movie involving. As Havana yearns to lead a remake of her abusing mother’s most famous work, her quest for one last shot at fame reverberates across her newly befriended family.

As with the most recent of Cronenberg’s output, he concentrates his efforts on his intermingling interactions between characters and gets the best performances possible. Mia Wasikowska‘s Agatha is almost a fragile care free woman devoted to her life work almost of wanting to be merely recognised by the rich and famous she endeavours to seek out, which she plays really well. You also have Robert Pattinson as the struggling actor-come-limo driver, getting behind the wheel this time since his last collaboration in Cosmopolis, disregarding his importance despite his lavish surroundings and ultimately becoming the only sane soul among all who take up screen time. But the real star is that of Julianne Moore as Havana. Loud, brash, playing over the top but in a very subtle way, her role as a struggling actress could have gone horribly wrong but her personality, her willing to venture further into the story and her all round demeanour fits perfectly to her.

Even as the film itself ventures into outlandish territory, she reigns in her performance just enough to steal the spotlight from under her co-stars. Following the trend from A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis as characters were changing by their environment aswell as their interactions, this film further demonstrates Cronenberg’s off kilter film making. Especially as it worms its way through its satirical essay, to character drama, to full blown violence and horror, all within the confines of it’s Hollywood setting. It’s like there’s something for everyone on offer. It’s scathing take on the modern day film industry, or collective show business in general, is there for all to see, even if it may not have the clear surface bite and narrative line of a film like Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring. But it certainly keeps in line with Cronenberg’s recent mission to showcase each aspect of the broken modern world and all it’s faults for dramatic gain.

It’s bold, it lays its cards out on the table from the get go, and it certainly isn’t afraid to delve deeper into the fractured mind. While it may not be for everyone, as is most of Cronenberg’s work, there’s more than plenty to scrutinize and admire again and again.