David Cronenberg directs the Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars. Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) is a young woman with burn scars, who arrives into Los Angeles from Florida and become acquainted with limo driver, and aspiring actor, Jerome (Robert Pattinson). Through her connections, Agatha becomes the new personal assistant Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), an aging actress who is haunted by visions of her mother Clarice (Sarah Gadon). Havana is treated for her condition by psychologist Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), who is also the father of child actor Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird), managed by Stafford’s wife Cristina (Olivia Williams). All these individuals’ lives connect in this examination of life in the entertainment industry.
What happened to David Cronenberg? That’s all I can think about after watching Maps to the Stars, which I consider to be a major low point of the director’s 45 year career. Over the course of the last decade or so, Cronenberg has been moving into much more mainstream films, than he has previously been known for. These films would feature bigger stars and not as strong an emphasis an the very shocking elements of his early work. With Maps to the Stars, this mainstream evolution has reached its peak, with a film that feels very Un-Cronenberg.
Now, there are indeed a few scenes in Maps to the Stars, which clearly have David Cronenberg’s fingerprints all over them, typically ones that involve his trademark uses of sex and/or violence. However, for much of the film, it is very hard to believe that Maps to the Stars is directed by same guy, whose debut film Shivers caused so much controversy back in 1975. Now, it’s completely understandable that Cronenberg didn’t want to be known for body horror forever, but it is really concerning that Cronenberg has been relegated to directing a poor excuse of a Hollywood satire.
The worst aspect of Maps to the Stars is undoubtedly Julianne Moore as washed up actress Havana Segrand, who is such an unlikeable character it’s not funny. Even though much of this unlikeability is probably intentional, it is still quite unbearable to watch Moore’s performance in the film. In fact, the performances all around are quite cringe-worthy. The only one who does a somewhat decent job is Sarah Gadon, in a small role as Havana’s mother. Even then, it’s kind of weird having someone practically half of the age of Julianne Moore playing her mother, even if it is merely a ghostly vision.
I do not have the words to say how much I was disappointed by Maps of the Stars. This is a film that clearly had the goal of taking a somewhat satirical look at life in Hollywood and give it a bit of a dark edge. However, the film turned out to be nothing but an incredibly poor showing from David Cronenberg, who now seems to be a shell of his former self. Let’s just say, I was glad when the film finally finished.
4 | DISAPPOINTED