Maps to the Stars

maps to the stars

While I have been a David Cronenberg fan since the early days – seeing Scanners’ heads explode was certainly one of the most memorable moments of my cinephile youth – I must admit that I have been pretty puzzled by his two latest movies. After taking us on a tedious – limo – ride with Cosmopolis, Mr . Cronenberg is back with Maps to the Stars, which proves to be another disappointing entry in his otherwise solid body of work.

The film centers on Havana (Julianne Moore), an actress desperate to make her comeback and Agatha (Mia WasikowskaAlice in Wonderland, Stoker), a troubled young woman hired as Havana’s personal assistant.  There are also a few noticeable secondary roles, from Agatha’s dad – a cynical self-help guru played by John Cusack – to an annoying Justin Bieber clone (Evan Bird) and an actor/screenwriter/limo driver (Cosmpolis’ Robert Pattison back in a limousine).

The movie follows those typical Angelino-types, which are connected through Agatha and are used to create a dark satire of Tinseltown.  The script, which is prominently credited to Bruce Wagner on the poster is supposed to be some great piece of writing – at least that’s what the marketing is implying – but this is exactly what plumbs this work. Unless I missed something, Mr. Wagner’s resume is far from being exceptional – he mostly wrote for TV and duds such as Nightmare on Elm St. 3, and his screenplay is filled with banalities, which should mostly appeal to those anti-Hollywood wannabe-artistic-intellectuals. Not that I’m here to defend Hollywood – living in LA, I know how shallow and irritating that world is – but not only Maps to the Stars doesn’t bring anything to the table but it misses the mark.

The movie aims at showing us how self-centered, pathetic and superficial Hollywood is, something we’ve seen dozens of times and known for years. From Sunset Boulevard (1950) and The Player (1992) to recent TV series such as Entourage and Californication, there are plenty of works mocking Hollywood with bite and humor.  Unfortunately there isn’t anything smart or original about Maps to the Stars to make it a worthwhile entry and even the Brett Easton Ellis-penned Lindsay Lohan-starrer The Canyons was a more effective and glorious effort when it comes to turn dreams into grotesque nightmares.   What the script could have benefited from is exploring the celebrity’s personal assistant thread as there are enough ridiculous horror stories out there to make for a solid dark comedy.

What Maps to the Stars has rooting for it is its direction, Mr. Cronenberg showing great craft when it comes to building oppressing sequences and making performances shine. But these are undoubtedly the actors who impress the most here, from a self-deprecating Julianne Moore to Mia Wasikowska and John Cusack as similar disturbed characters.

While Cosmopolis was a bigger failure, it at least carried Mr. Cronenberg’s signature atmosphere and some of his emblematic themes, something that’s cruelly missing here, except for the conclusion. While exploring new universes is always good as an artistic endeavor, let’s hope that Mr. Cronenberg will get back to the twisted, odd works he excels at.

Director: David Cronenberg – Actors: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska – Running Time: 1:51 – Year: 2014 – Country: Canada
Click here to watch the Maps to the Stars trailer
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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.