Magazine article Screen International

Maps to the Stars

Magazine article Screen International

Maps to the Stars

Article excerpt

Dir: David Cronenberg. France-Canada-Germany-US. 2014. 111mins

The long-awaited spawn of the union between director David Cronenberg and writer Bruce Wagner is Mulholland Drive, Sunset Boulevard and The Player wrapped up into one darkly comic, Gothic-tinged package.

The film doesn't quite get away with its attempt to reconcile satire with pathos, but it comes perilously close.

Cannes was always going to be the right launchpad for a film which is on one level a bitter but tasty satire on the amorality of Hollywood, channeled with verve and gusto by some of those who belong to the star system that is being sent up: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack and even Carrie Fisher (playing herself in a brief cameo). But the Cannes critical and industry insider reaction to a film whose targets are just one degree of separation from its audience may not be a fair litmus test once Maps To the Stars is forced to make its own way in the big wide world.

Outside of our celluloid cage, it's going to be the kooky and in the end surprisingly edgy story of a screwed-up tinseltown family's implosion that counts for more than the references to Harvey Weinstein, points on an actor's contract, and Scientology ("I'm thinking of converting as a career move", says the chauffeur/actor/screenwriter played by Pattinson). The film doesn't quite get away with its attempt to reconcile satire with pathos, but it comes perilously close.

Hollywood is a network, and Cronenberg's film (which takes its name from those guides to celebrity houses that starstruck tourists can buy) focuses on a small slice of this mesh. There's the Weiss family, made up, when first presented, of New Age TV self-help psychologist and celebrity therapist Stafford (Cusack), brattish, prematurely old, child-star son Benjie, just back from rehab, (an impressive performance by young Canadian actor Bird) and his highly-strung, hard-bargaining manager mother Cristina (Williams).

And there's also one of Stafford's regular clients, no-longer-young actress Havana Segrand (Moore, having a whale of a time), a monstrously ambitious woman haunted by envy of younger rivals and the shadow of a dead actress mother whose most famous role the nipped and tucked diva is hoping to reprise in a remake directed by an arthouse darling.

It's not immediately obvious who the seemingly sweet and shy girl from Florida is who arrives in town by bus but then engages the services of a private limo driven by aspiring actor and screenwriter Jerome (Pattinson). …

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