Maps to the Stars

A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity, one another and the relentless ghosts of their pasts.

To be honest, I’ve been sitting here thinking about reviewing this film and I’ve found it really difficult to put my thoughts to paper. It’s such a strange beast, sitting somewhere between ‘Sunset Boulevard‘ and ‘Mulholland Drive‘ with a warped look at the corrupting influence of Hollywood. David Cronenberg is a talented director (although I wasn’t a fan of his last two films (Cosmopolis and A Dangerous Method), and he heavily lays on the satire, just about managing to straddle the line between the sublime and the ridiculous.

The film itself introduces us to several key characters who will intersect throughout the course of the film, beginning with the mysterious, troubled Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) who has just arrived in LA and begins working as the assistant of an aging, yet still reknowned actress (Julianne Moore), who has demons of her own. We also meet Robert Pattinson’s limo driver and the members of the Weiss family, a Hollywood dynasty currently pushing the career of their young son, Benjie (Evan Bird). Cronenberg expertly crafts these individual stories to be interesting in their own ways whilst connecting thematically with the wider story he is trying to tell.

The real strength of the film lies in the excellent performances, which manage to ground the more outlandish elements of the script and bring a sense of deeply troubling realism to proceedings. Mia Wasikowska has always had a bit of an otherworldly glow about her, and this fits perfectly for the character of Agatha, whilst Pattinson continues the decent run started in ‘The Rover‘ with another strong performance. The film also stars John Cusack, Olivia Williams and Sarah Gadon, but the best performances come from the excellent youngster Evan Bird, as the bratty Bieber-esque young star, and Julianne Moore, in a performance likely to be remembered come Oscar season. Moore’s Havana is famous, but aging and fading (note the similarities to Sunset Boulevard as mentioned earlier), and desperate to get out of the shadow of her mother, an even more famous actress. Moore lays everything on the line in a deeply vulnerable performance and the sadness barely hidden under her exterior is incredibly powerful.

Maps to the Stars‘ is an ambitious picture with a lot to say about the corrupting influence of Hollywood, and it mostly overcomes its deficiencies through strong characterisation, excellent performances and a razor sharp script. It’s not as moving as ‘Sunset Boulevard‘, nor as fascinating as the magnificent ‘Mulholland Drive’, but this is another worthwhile entry in a collection of films looking at the dark underbelly of Hollywood society.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: David Cronenberg

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon and Evan Bird


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