Wednesday, 19 November 2014


eOne Films

Although billed as a satire of Hollywood, David Cronenberg's latest film mostly uses that setting -- with its superficial, self-involved people and self-made heroes and charlatans -- to examine the empty and dysfunctional lives of some of those who call L.A. home: picking at the scars of their familial bonds and inherent psychosis for comic and dramatic effect with mixed results.

Agatha's scars are on show for the world to see. Newly-arrived from Florida, Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) was disfigured by burns suffered in a house fire in her youth. She wears long, black gloves in the L.A. sun to hide most of the wounds but they are visible on her neck. And only less visible, just beneath her wide-eyed facade -- she's Twitter friend's with Carrie Fisher! -- are the mental and emotional wounds which she's come to Hollywood to heal.

Agatha's famous connection lands her a job as the chore-whore for Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), an actress whose phone rings less and less now that she's reached middle age. Havana has her sights set on playing the role made famous by her infamous mother, who died young and beautiful (and in a fire no less), and who has begun haunting Havana as a result of some deep therapy sessions.

Those sessions are with Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), a successful self-help guru with a high-powered clientele, and a wife, Christina (Olivia Williams), who plays stage mum to their teenage son, Benjie (Evan Bird). Benjie is also seeing ghosts, partly because his success as a child star has lost some of its gloss following the onset of puberty and a stint in rehab for substance abuse.

And there's also Jerome (Robert Pattinson), a struggling actor-writer who pays the bills driving a limo. But one suspcets Pattinson's role in Maps To The Stars has been included merely as a none-too-subtle reference to his previous collaboration with Cronenberg, where he played a Wall Street hot shot who spent the majority of that film (Cosmopolis) being driven round in a luxurious town car.

These lives become more and more messily entwined as history rears its ugly head and truth will have its day. Blood will out -- figuratively and literally -- in Cronenberg's film, working from a screenplay by Bruce Wagner, but it's only sporadically fun; the Hollywood name-dropping and pot-shots not nearly enough to counter the story's increasing darkness as almost every character's pysche begins to give way under the burden of the past.

Not surprisingly, Julianne Moore is 'best in show' in Maps To The Stars. You could almost feel sorry for her tragic screen heroine as she descends into old age (as defined by Hollywood), obscurity and madness if it weren't for the fact that Havana Segrand is as venal and selfish as they come; her delight in winning a coveted role as a result of tragic circumstances revealing her stunted emotional maturity and the depths of her self-absorption.

Not for nothing Moore won the Best Actress prize at Cannes earlier this year, and Havana Segrand receives her gong too in the film's most inspired, funny, unsubtle and shocking moment. And Cronenberg's film boasts all those elements but rarely in unison and not nearly consistently enough. Maps To The Stars, while never dull, also never leads to a satisfactory destination.

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