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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.14.14] Canada drama

Many argue that David Cronenberg has lost his way. The Canadian director has been on somewhat of a roll since the mid 70s and though there have been perceived missteps over the years, Crash and eXistenZ were both largely maligned on release but have found their ardent supporters in the years since. I expect that to some extent, the recent batch of Cronenberg titles might also find a following in 10 or 15 years but I expect those fans won't be quite as supportive because the movies simply aren't that good. A Dangerous Method (review) is a minor achievement which is largely memorable for the performances by an all star cast but Cosmopolis (review) is a flop of enormous proportions and, I'm sad to report, Maps to the Stars is equally disappointing thought at least it makes some semblance of sense.

Maps to the Stars brings together a group of Hollywood types who are all connected by Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska). The daughter of a Hollywood family, Agatha was sent away after setting fire to the family home, an event that left her physically disfigured. She's been living away from Hollywood for a while but now that she's been set free from the loony bin, she's returned to the place she calls home and through some ridiculous Twitter connection, has found herself a job as an assistant to aging actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) who will do almost anything to stay relevant. Stuff happens, Agatha gets in contact with her family who have a restraining order against her and the next thing you know, Agatha and her new beau, an aspiring writer/limo writer named Jerome (Robert Pattinson) are sharing a creepy romantic moment on the empty lot that was once Agatha's family home.

Agatha's relationships with her family are a high point of Maps to the Stars. From the guilt based relationship with her mother to the hateful, almost vengeful relationship Agatha has with her dad - they're complicated and weird and the kind of thing the director handles so well but that, along with Agatha's physical disfigurement, are pretty much the only recognizable Cronenberg traits of Maps to the Stars. On principle, that's not a bad thing. It's great to see directors step out of their comfort zone to take on material that's not quite their norm but the script of Maps to the Stars feels so much like an attempt at a Cronenberg movie that when it doesn't deliver, it's particularly disappointing.

Cronenberg does try, and occasionally succeeds, in shedding some creepy light and observations on the weirdness of Hollywood but it's simply not enough but rather the kind of thing that graces the pages of tabloids daily. The teen addicted to drugs, the parents who are more interested in their own success than in their children, the actress who will do almost anything to return to the limelight... the concepts are good but writer Bruce Wagner doesn't take them far enough to be really memorable.

The only really great thing of Maps to the Stars are the performances and particularly that of Julianne Moore. Over the years Moore has grown a career playing crazy women and Havana is certainly right up there with the best of them. She's loud and brash and has a personality that sucks the air out of the room and Moore plays her to perfection. John Cusack is also pretty great as a self obsessed, self-help guru to the stars but Wasikowska, usually so good, feels completely under utilized and forgettable though she's the catalyst at the center of the drama.

Maps to the Stars looked as though it could be a return to form for Cronenberg but in truth, it's just more of the director peddling in forgettable, middle brow drama.

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projectcyclops (8 years ago) Reply

I felt that while it wasn't one of his stronger works, it still had a lot of good stuff going on. Part of what I enjoyed was the other-worldly atmosphere and strange tone of a lot the scenes. Certainly some elements stuck out as simply not working at all (Carrie Fisher?) but overall I was happy to see DC continuing to try new things. Not a total disaster for me, but I can see why it would be a let down for many of his fans.

Still waiting for his glorious return to the horror genre, of course.


Marina (8 years ago) Reply

The best parts for me were Agatha's relationships with her family. Twisted but not given enough room to really breathe. I hoped to like it more but it's definitely a step up from Cosmopolis.

That's not a exactly high praise but its true!


projectcyclops (8 years ago) Reply

Cosmopolis was rather a low point. I recently gave it a second chance after seeing MTTS and found myself warming to it a little - although I'll freely admit to having been totally mystified and bored by it first time around. I suspect there's something good in there though. Maybe I'll even give 'Spider' another go one of these days.

You're absolutely right about Julianne Moore btw, her performance here was definitely the highlight of the film. Her final scene was particularly memorable.

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