Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Maps to the Stars: Movie Review

Lost in a world of fame, tragedy, celebrity and incest.
Maps to the Stars Or: How To Turn Personal Tragedy Into Fame, Money and Celebrity is how I would title this thoroughly disturbing tale about the Hollywood lifestyle by director David Cronenberg and writer Bruce Wagner. Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) is new in LA, ready for a tour of stars’ homes, chasing the celebrity dream and determined to cash in on her twitter friendship with Carrie Fisher. Oh, and she might have ulterior motives. 2014

Directed by: David Cronenberg

Screenplay by: Bruce Wagner

Starring: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Evan Bird and Robert Pattinson

Mia Wasikowska as the mysteriously scarred and tormented AGATHA (LEFT)
and Julianne Moore as HAVANA SEGRAND (RIGHT) an unravelling actress
who is beset by the ghost of her legendary mother, in a David Cronenberg
film, MAPS TO THE STARS. Courtesy of eOne Films
Agatha made enough sense on the surface – fame, money and celebrity are alluring concepts and one can understand how some might be persuaded by that. But then we meet the other characters and feelings of understanding or familiarity are lost as viewers are thrust into an extremely dysfunctional and wholly unhealthy lifestyle of those that have already achieved fame, money and celebrity.

Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) is the daughter of a celebrated classic film actress who tragically died young and now she’s trying to capitalize on her mother’s life and build a career out of the ashes. Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is a celebrity therapist who spews Buddhist philosophies while collecting millions in book deals. Christina Weiss (Olivia Williams) is a mother-agent selling out her son’s sanity, childhood and life for a chance at living out fame, money and celebrity through him. Benjie (Evan Bird) is their son; he’s a thirteen year-old boy who has already been through rehab, already consummated and rejected sexual relationships with fellow actresses, has already experienced and lost and re-gained fame, money and celebrity, likes playing up the down-to-Earth movie star for dying fans and is more cynical than people three times his age living in any other part of the country. That’s Hollywood for you, or so says the movie.

Robert Pattinson plays the only accessible character in the movie. Jerome is Agatha’s limo driver who had moved to LA hoping to make it big as an actor or writer. Like Agatha at the beginning, one can understand him and have empathy for him as he tries hard at his craft and has very few tragic personality traits unlike every other character in the movie.

John Cusack is SANFORD WEISS, a famed TV self-help therapist,
whose “Hour of Personal Power” has brought him an A-list celebrity
clientele in a David Cronenberg film, MAPS TO THE STARS.
Courtesy of eOne Films
There is a somewhat coherent thread that ties Agatha to each character, but it’s also what makes the film so disturbing and ultimately tragic. Each character is haunted by ghosts of their past, and not just metaphorically but literally. And then if overcoming their tragic past to achieve fame, money and celebrity isn’t enough, they are each going to be responsible for undoing their own sanity because of their need for incestual love. Incest is the one common link to every relationship shown in the film. The intense bias against Hollywood can be a bit much.

There is no rule that says that comedies have to be light, but it can be hard to find much humour in a tale so disturbing, tragic and distressing. It’s also hard to say what the message of the movie is, but nobody escapes this world alive, nobody escapes Hollywood with sanity and very few will escape this movie about Hollywood alive.

Similar Titles:

The Bling Ring (2013) - Eventually finds the root of all evil, at least in the heart of teenage girls living in the suburbs of fame and fortune.