Maps to the Stars

Maps to the Stars photo starrating-2stars.jpgIn theory, Maps to the Stars wants to be a savage satire on Hollywood as seen through the eyes of the Weiss family. Our story begins with Jerome Fontana (Robert Pattinson), a chauffeur. Like everyone in this city, he’s actually a struggling actor writing a screenplay. At the start he picks up Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) who has hired him to drive her. She is newly arrived to Tinseltown and eager to start a new life. Her relationship to the rest of the ensemble is a bit of a mystery. She ultimately gets hired by Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), a waning superstar.  Havana is a woman fiercely seeking a role in the remake of her mother’s 1960 movie Stolen Waters. Clarice Taggart (Sarah Gadon) was an iconic actress who died tragically in a fire. She now appears as a ghost apparently only to torment her daughter. John Cusack is Dr. Stafford Weiss – Havana’s new age therapist. He’s father to Benjie, a child celebrity and a recovering drug addict. Benjie got famous from a popular film franchise called Bad Babysitter. Cristina Weiss (Olivia Williams ) is his exploitative mother who enables his bad behavior.

There’s something a little off kilter about this tale – and not in a good way. For a comedy-drama set amongst the politics of La la Land, the ambiance is surprisingly lethargic. The picture occasionally makes an impression.  When Havana’s lucky break comes at the expense of her colleague’s son drowning, she belts out “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”.   But the milieu never quite feels like The Entertainment Capital of the World.  Anyone who has witnessed reality TV train wrecks like The Anna Nicole Show (2002–2004) or Whitney Houston’s behavior on Being Bobby Brown (2005) will get a better window into the perils of fame.  Just 30 minutes of those reality series are more savage attacks on Hollywood excess than anything in this script.  The production notes tell us this is director David Cronenberg’s first film shot in the U.S. but his overwhelming reliance on interior shots have the prefabricated feel of a Toronto soundstage. There’s a noticeable lack of stars playing themselves in this land too.  Carrie Fisher pops up briefly to give the dialogue some much needed levity that doesn‘t rely on vulgar discourse. We find out the Star Wars actress became friends with Agatha on Twitter. That could be a joke. It’s hard to tell.

David Cronenberg satirizes those washed-up starlets that want to remain relevant at any cost. It’s easy to see Julianne Moore as sort of a amalgamation of former stars like Lindsay Lohan or Kim Richards. The authenticity of her performance is never a question. She portrays this fading actress like a woman who has already lived the experience.  Moore is brave, but at times the determination to shock the audience reeks of desperation. Too often the atmosphere devolves into crudeness without purpose. The offenses are many. Julianne Moore’s big moment occurs while sitting on the toilet. Her demand to her PA for laxatives augmented by sound effects. Incest is a recurring theme. At one point, Havana’s dead mother takes the place of the other woman in her ménage à trois.  When Dr. Stafford started punching Agatha on the floor of his meticulously decorated living room, I could’ve sworn I saw that same scene in Mommie Dearest. I get it. In Hollywood, everyone is a mess. Unfortunately so is this production.

10-14-14

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11 Responses to “Maps to the Stars”

  1. Fine work here, Mark. I had read a glowing review of this not that long ago but I’m not all that keen on Cronenberg so it’s good to hear another opinion.

    • Julianne Moore won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival in May ’14 so it has gotten some acclaim. But the film isn’t great. Overall it’s kind of sloppy with only the occasional funny bit.

  2. There is really nobody to like, or connect with, in this terrible movie. The acting wasn’t bad, but the stories were. I don’t like seeing Hollywood actors portrayed in such a nasty way. I know it’s probably accurate, at times, but I like to think some are nice. 1 star.

    • Robert Pattinson as Jerome the chauffeur was probably the closest thing to a sympathetic character. But then he cheats on his girlfriend, so uh yeah, nobody is likable.

  3. Great review, Mark. I wasn’t sure what to make of the trailer, as it seemed super weird and rather over the top. I do like Cronenberg overall, but thought Cosmopolis was a load of pretentious hogwash so I’m hoping he’ll return to form soon. One film critic over here touted Julianne Moore’s performance as Oscar worthy and I was going to see this at the cinema just for that, but maybe not now!

    • She gives it her all bit it’s not Oscar worthy. Even the studio has decided not to pursue a nomination for this film. She has another performance in Still Alice that her camp is going to focus her Oscar campaign on.

  4. Yuck, I think I’ll be steering clear of this. Since seeing the trailers its not exactly one I’ve been keen on anyway. Its nothing to do with Coppola or anything, but this reminds me a lot of The Bling Ring — and i’m not sure if u recall, but I did *not* like that one, one bit! 🙂

    Good review

    • I guess they’re both about fame, but from opposite sides of the fence. The Bling Ring concerned spoiled rich kids with no talent that stole from the famous stars they admired. Maps to the Stars is about an actual star that has now become something of a has-been now trying to claw her way back into the public eye.

      They’re really quite different though.

      P.S. I enjoyed The Bling Ring. 😯

      • Good point, definitely different sides of the fence. The Bling Ring had things to be liked but I suppose I have never been one for the glam-obsessed crowd. I do think performances were good, based on how much I usually like Emma Watson and how I despised her in that! lol

  5. Wow. Map to the Stars sounds like it’s trying really hard to be savage satire. Too bad it fails in that goal. Having stars play themselves certainly would have helped in that regard. This movie won’t be one that I’ll rush to see.

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