Dir: David Cronenberg
This towering melodramatic Hollywood satire sees veteran horror director David Cronenberg coolly and clinically taking aim at a handful of disturbingly connected misfits and actors in the hills of tinsel town. The back lot sets become his laboratories this time; The Mullholland Drive mansions his recovery rooms. In dissecting the power and corruption of fame as if it was a tumour, the Canadian has expertly produced his funniest film, soaked it in acid and left it festering in the country club swimming pool for all to see.
Julianne Moore is incredibly good as late 40s actress Havana Segrand; A good actress on the dreaded middle-aged back slide, whose self-respect has all but gone out of the window after auditioning for a part made famous by her deceased mother in a remake of a 70’s classic. Her fear and pain is being massaged out of her twice weekly by TV quack and psychotherapist Stafford Weiss (a fantastically creepy John Cusack) but the ghost of her mother may just tip her over the edge.
Mia Wasikowska is our cool counterpoint as Havana’s new “chore whore” Agatha; A pretty girl, scarred from a fire and new comer to LA with a glint of determination in her eye, meanwhile Weiss’s wife (Olivia Williams), his brat child actor son Benji (Evan Bird) and Robert Pattinson‘s actor/limo driver round out the despicable characters in Cronenberg’s tinsel town freak show while the director focuses on every little grimace and scream, showing everyone’s more unflattering side with joyful abandon.
Channeling Sunset Boulevard, Postcards From the Edge (complete with Carrie Fisher cameo) and to a lesser extent Altman’s The Player, Maps To The Stars presents its loony tunes characters in the stilted, static, formalised way which makes most of Cronenbergs work zing with unease. This time though the humour is pushed way up; It’s certainly not laugh out loud funny but it comes with tone which insists on nervous giggling before the eventual bloodletting commences; Bad CGI, dog murder and diabolical usage of one of Havana’s award statuettes included.
Bruce Wagner‘s vitriolic script allows Moore most of the films best lines; Her performance is an absolutely outstanding, shameless piece of work. Wasikowska and Cusack both turn in great work also but, of the supporting characters (Moore eclipses all), Evan Bird’s disgusting child star, Benji is the one pebble that you’ll find difficult to remove from your shoe, providing most of Maps To The Stars most gleefully horrific moments. You’ll laugh uncomfortably the whole way through.