David Cronenberg is not a director to hold back anything, his films are unflinching in their explicit nature and his political discourse is one to be reckoned with. It only seems natural that a director of this type doesn’t attract much studio attention when he begins to delve into the bizarre, as to scare away the mainstream audience that studios look for. “Maps to the Stars” is a film that picked up a lot of heat at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, primarily for Cronenberg’s direction and Julianne Moore’s performance, for which she won the award for Best Actress for at the festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe. Cronenberg takes a hit at mainstream Hollywood and the effect that fame has on those who seek it so desperately.
Moore is a revelation as Havana Segrand, an aging starlet with a waning career. She is trying desperately to win a role in a remake of a film that her mother starred in as a young woman. Segrand is constantly being haunted by the ghost of her abusive mother and is willing to do anything, no matter how depraved, to get the role. Mia Wasikowska plays Agatha, Segrand’s homely new assistant covered in burn scars. Agatha has returned to town to visit family and decides to stay, she also begins a relationship with chauffeur and aspiring writer/actor Jerome, played by Robert Pattinson. Wasikowska is creepily effective, creating an unsettling character whose intentions are blurred to the audience, making a mysterious, fascinating girl. Evan Bird plays a Justin Bieber-esque character, with a disturbingly accurate portrayal of how insecure boys behave with attention just to seem cool, and perhaps the accuracy is the most disturbing part, but adding in his fame obsessed parents (Olivia Williams and John Cusack) on top of it, and there’s no way to avoid a self-destruction.
The most disturbing part of the film doesn’t come from it’s violence or bizarre sex scenes, but simply from how familiar this all looks to us, through any reality TV show, or TV talent shows, even down to that one relative or friend that always is trying to be famous, that we all have, nothing in this exaggerated film ever seems too far-fetched for how Hollywood works now, and how it unfortunately will become. Screenwriter Bruce Wagner captures this in a disturbing, yet incredibly hilarious manner, leaving me regretting laughing at any of it, but also leaving me unable to deny how funny it truly was.
Cronenberg captures the film in a digital sheen that evokes that of a reality television show, yet still has the cinematic beauty about it to create that balance of the satire him and Wagner were wishing to achieve with the final product. The explicit nature of the film, depraved plot elements and bizarre resolutions all add to the completely surreal experience that comes with watching this film for the first time.
“Maps to the Stars” is a completely depraved and shameless film that satirizes the completely depraved and shameless reality of what tabloids like to call “fame-whores.” The film pulls you in from the start and doesn’t let up until the credits roll, from Moore’s addictive performance, to Cronenberg’s meticulous direction with Wagner’s screenplay, to the simply exhausting beatdown of the senses that the film comes with from the start, it’s hard to take in “Maps to the Stars,” but once you do, it will be hard to forget it, ever.
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Starring: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, Evan Bird, Sarah Gadon, with John Cusack and Robert Pattinson.
Runtime: 111 minutes
Rating: R for strong disturbing violence and sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some drug material.
In select theatres, on iTunes and On-Demand
Focus World presents, in association with Entertainment One, Prospero Pictures and SBS Productions, a Starmaps Productions, SBS Productions, Integral Film production, produced with the participation of Telefilm Canada, Ontario Media Development Corporation, The Harold Greenberg Fund, in co-production with Axone Invest, with the participation of Canal+, OCS, a David Cronenberg film, “Maps to the Stars”