Image: Prospero Pictures
Maps To The Stars begins as films set in the bedazzling world of Hollywood often do: an out-of-towner arrives, takes in the atmosphere and takes a deep breath as the camera gazes over shots of palm trees and sunshine. It is easy to see why so many directors and actors fall in love with this place, but for director David Cronenberg, the bright lights and sunshine of Hollywood are a place of disgusting narcissism, youth worship, and disturbing incestuous overtones.
It’s a mixture of character study and surreal ghost story, following a set of intertwining lives in Tinseltown: Mia Wasikowska plays a troubled young burn victim, trying to make her way in Hollywood using her limited contacts, alongside Robert Pattinson (in his second Cronenberg collaboration) playing a part time limo driver/write/actor, struggling to find time for his artistic pursuits.
There’s a disgusting, odious child actor (Evan Bird), fresh off a stint in rehab, and his opportunistic life-guru father (John Cusack), but the plaudits go to Julianne Moore for her visceral performance as Havana Segrand, a narcissistic, pathetic actress obsessed with (and haunted by) her mother, trying desperately to play her mother’s role in a remake of one of her films. It’s a towering performance by an actress who has once again proven that she is right up there among the elite performers today.
The characters are detestable and the story is grisly and disturbing, but it all combines to make Maps to the Stars one of this year’s more intriguing and ambitious films. It explores the seedy underbelly of Hollywood more explicitly and sordidly than any other film like it, and while the middle third lags just a bit, if you allow yourself to be taken in to the crazy world of Cronenberg’s Hollywood, you’ll be justly rewarded.