Tuesday, March 17, 2015

MAPS TO THE STARS (2015)

Written by Bruce Wagner


Directed by David Cronenberg


Where & When: Sundance Sunset Cinema, West Hollywood, CA. March 3, 2015 1:45PM


David Cronenberg began his career making creepy sc-fi themed horror flicks like "Rabid", "The Brood" and his gory re-make of "The Fly". After his recent period of acclaimed dramatic thrillers including the Oscar-nominated "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises", the Canadian filmmaker appears ready to get back to his roots. His latest, "Maps to The Stars" takes a weird, nightmarish trip in to the over-privileged lives of the Hollywood film community. Hardly a fresh idea but Mr.Cronenberg has always been one of the more inspired directors, blurring the lines between genres while pushing the boundaries between classic and experimental film making. You would never consider "Maps" to be a conventional examination of troubled famous people determined to maintain their fame at any cost. But this undercooked satire fails to make us feel much for these falling stars.

Freshly minted Oscar-winner, Julianne Moore heads a fine cast of actors who seem to relish the juicy opportunity to portray many of the grotesque types they've surely come across during their time in the business. It should be no surprise that the actress delivers another outstanding performance, capturing the angst and insecurities of a tightly-wound actor or that this role won Moore the Best Actress prize at last year's Cannes. Coming across like a middle-aged, less weather-beaten Lindsey Lohan, Moore plays Havana Segrand, a petulant actress desperately wanting to be cast in the same role her mother played in the film, "Stolen Waters". Although much older than the character, Havana is convinced this will be the project she needs to revitalize her career. Haunted by visions of her deceased mother, she seeks counsel from famed television psychologist, Dr. Weiss (John Cusack) to guide her while struggling to cope with the perceived abuse she experienced as a child.

The teenage son of Dr. Weiss, Benjie (Evan Bird) also happens to be a famous actor that's fresh out of rehab. Spoiled, repugnant and petty, Benjie needs to prove to the producers he's clean to begin work on his comeback film. His high-strung mother (Olivia Williams), who also happens to be Benjie's manager, helps convince the suits her son is ready despite displaying signs he's still quite unstable.

The secret arrival of Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), Benjie's estranged sister, will create even more tension for the Weiss family. Recently released from an institution with burns covering her body and heavily medicated, she has a complicated past but just wants be reunited with her family. Agatha hires Jerome (Robert Pattinson), a struggling actor and screenwriter who pays his bills as a limo driver, to escort her around town including a trip to her former home which burned down under mysterious circumstances. After managing to get hired as Havana's new personal assistant, this allows Agatha access to film sets and a chance to see her brother.

"Maps To The Stars" packs a punch with it's vicious and ugly exploration in to the world of show-biz but doesn't offer clear insight in to what has lead to all this destruction. While the dark script by Bruce Wagner, who has made his career writing biting novels and screenplays on celebrity culture, skillfully reveals the desperation and ruthlessness of these characters, their shallowness doesn't take long to grow tiresome. The brutal ending fails to deliver the desired shock and only feels highly implausible.

The result is a film that's too odd to be enjoyed as a standard melodrama and not nearly out-there enough to be compelling as an art film. "Maps To The Stars" makes it very easy to laugh at these tragic, self-involved movie people but more difficult to feel much empathy.