Maps to the Stars

Director: David Cronenberg

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

Classification: LSNVD

Running time: 111 minutes

Rating: ***



THE Hollywood culture is intoxicating. That much is a given. But, at the same time, it can also be suffocating and maddening to those who find themselves in its inner sanctum.

And that’s where David Cronenberg comes in strongly. His Midas touch in the horror/sci-fi genre lends itself beautifully to his dissection of the intertwined tales of the rich and famous characters in Maps to the Stars.

To say that he is blessed when it comes to his stellar cast, would be an understatement.

And there has been a lot of understandable noise around Maps to the Stars. But to fully comprehend Cronenberg’s masterful departure, you have to watch the movie.

I warn you though – it is disturbing viewing.

The story opens with the arrival of Agatha (Wasikowska) in Los Angeles – and she has employed the services of limousine driver Jerome (Pattinson), who is also an aspiring actor.

Then viewers are introduced to the other characters: Benjie Wiess (Bird), a child star with a destructive personality akin to Justin Bieber; his dad, Dr Stafford (Cusack), a psychologist who is treating actress Havana Segrand (Moore); and Segrand, in turn, who is dealing with a host of issues from her sexual abuse as a child to the death of her celebrity actress mother to the fact that her age is counting against her in Hollywood’s viper pit of youth and beauty.

As the story plays out, those salacious secrets are revealed.

For the Weiss family, it is the return of their estranged pyromaniac daughter Agatha, who became emotionally unhinged by something she learnt about her picture-perfect family when she was younger.

Meanwhile, Havana, determined to bag the lead role in a remake of her late mother’s film, Stolen Waters, is haunted by her ghost. And Benjie is seeing dead people while surprisingly maintaining his sobriety.

Meanwhile, Cristina (Williams) is at her wits’ end trying to save her son’s acting career, while coping with the fact that her psychotic daughter is back in town.

In this Mecca of vanity and ambition, Cronenberg exposes the imperfections of its rich and famous characters. He magnifies their superficiality in this incestuous cesspit of sex, drugs and agents.

Moore is most deserving of her Best Actress honours at the Cannes Film Festival. She is as magnificent at being manipulative as she is at being narcissistic and bitchy.

In fact, every actor is given ample scope to bring their dysfunctional character to life – and they do so with conviction.

Cronenberg explores themes of star meltdowns, incest and desperation with a sense of candour that is so brutal, you have to collect your breath while exiting the cinema.

If you liked St Vincent, Cosmopolis, Leviathan and Ida, you should enjoy this.