Upon hearing that David Cronenberg was tackling Bruce Wagner's screenplay for Maps to the Stars as his next project, the excitement level for the film skyrocketed. We’ve appreciated Cronenberg’s unique cinematic style of storytelling for decades and to think he was going to point his jaded lens at Hollywood, well… where do we sign up?
Then we saw it. It’s a Cronenberg movie -- that is for sure. And yet, it is still very much a Hollywood-centric movie that has more shades of The Player and other mainstream fare than anything Cronenberg’s done since A History of Violence.
Sure, Maps to the Stars reunites the director with his Cosmopolis star Robert Pattinson. But this film is the Julianne Moore show.
Moore plays Havana Segrand, an actress who has had a pretty solid career, but has fallen on tough times and is finding it impossible to escape her famous actress mother’s shadow. What better way to run right into that issue than by starring in the remake of the movie that made her mom a household name?
If it sounds twisted, it is… and that is pure Cronenberg.
Making matters even more meta-interesting is the arrival of Mia Wasikowska’s Agatha. She somehow connected with Carrie Fisher (the Star Wars: The Force Awakens star plays herself) over Twitter and Fisher gets her a job as Segrand’s assistant. Agatha and Havana’s mother actually (quite oddly) share something in common. They were both burned by fire. Agatha survived her inferno and that horror is what took Segrand’s mum.
There are layers of Hollywood insider dramatic drive that will still resonate for those audiences who don’t live here in La-La land. Maps to the Stars is like an off the rails Sunset Boulevard, which already was a bit on the cuckoo side!
John Cusack plays a guru/massage/life therapist to the stars who coaches Segrand in life issues and he’s pretty solid. Also quite good in the most charming of ways is Pattinson as the limo driver who strikes up a relationship with Agatha that will drive Segrand right up to and against the edge of sanity.
Moore astounds (again). She finds new levels of power in this portrayal that could easily have her considered for next year's Oscar. It's about as complicated a characterization as she's done, and yes, that is saying something.
Why Cronenberg is so perfect for this tale is that as mad as the world appears that we the viewer are occupying for two hours, it all seems completely normal in a film of his! And that is just one reason why we truly recommend this piece. Maps to the Stars is not for everyone, but if you enjoy the director’s work, then his latest will certainly entertain and have you looking at Tinseltown much differently than before.
What is also so fascinating, our Maps to the Stars review has to point out, is that it's a story about Hollywood and movie-making that honestly just circles the drain on that world, and never really goes in.
That is exactly where all of these characters should be found.