Movie Review - Maps to the Stars

This film premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Best Actress award for Julianne Moore. Moore plays Havana Segrand, a neurotic and slightly unhinged, aging actress who is desperate to be cast in a remake of her mother's movie. She embodies the desperation and the whiny child in adult form. She's contrasted with an equally neurotic but skewering and vicious man in child form.

Evan Bird (The Killing) co-stars as Benjie Weiss, a 13-year-old movie star who has just hit puberty but who is already a recovering, drug addict. His ego and vanity are through the roof and his attitude is always to be brutally honest and actively harsh or mean to any and everyone he encounters. This all could be a defense mechanism because his sister almost killed him in a fire.

Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland and The Kids Are All Right) also co-stars as Agatha Weiss, the older sister of Benjie who set the fire. Benjie wasn't hurt, but Agatha did suffer burns on her arms, legs and face. She was sent to a clinic for mental treatment in another state. At the opening of the film, we see her arrive in Los Angeles with the hope of reconnecting with her brother and family.

Robert Pattinson (Twilight and Cosmopolis) plays Jerome Fontana, an aspiring actor who works as a limo driver or chauffeur for people in Hollywood. He's initially hired by Agatha to take her to famous places. A bit of a romance develops between the two, but he's easily tempted by stars like Havana for who Agatha works as a personal assistant.

Jon Cusack (Say Anything and Being John Malkovich) plays Stafford Weiss, a doctor and therapist who is Agatha and Benjie's father. He treats celebrities like Havana, but once he learns Agatha is back in Los Angeles, he tries to keep her away from Benjie and the family. He even goes as far as physically attacking her and seriously punching her.

His is the first of a series of violent attacks that occur in the third act of this movie. Up until then, the only attacks are verbal ones. Benjie is first seen throwing out anti-semitic and anti-gay slurs. When Benjie is hanging out with friends, some female companions throw out horrible and vulgar lines, insulting the age and looks of various people.

None of the other characters are as vitriolic, but, through their actions, a sense is conveyed of a lack of empathy amongst most if not all. There is empathy and people who care for others, but much of it is marred or tainted by bad history or societal pressures.

Directed by David Cronenberg, this is a view of Hollywood that takes a lot of the criticisms and stereotypes and pushes them to extremes. It portrays this Weiss family as not much more than incestuous, homicidal and suicidal people who mostly think of nothing but themselves.

There are moments of humor, mainly involving Moore's character and her performance. There are ugly and obvious moments like when she stinks up her bathroom as we watch her defecate on the toilet, but better moments involve a sequence where Havana meets the son of the actress who took the role she wanted and then react to an unfortunate event to happen to that same boy.

Since Cronenberg has excelled at horror, it's almost boring when he wields it here, particularly at the end. It's not boring when he makes the perpetrators of horrible violence and the victims of such violence little children. Yet, even Cronenberg isn't courageous enough to depict a child committing cold-blooded murder upon another child.

It's hinted that Cronenberg might swing the other way and push boundaries with sex. We're perhaps meant to be shocked at moments, but in a way it all feels tame.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for disturbing violence and sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug material.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 51 mins.


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