When director David Cronenberg made his mark as a director, it was a bloody one with a glut of body horror movies that gave birth to his theme of the new flesh. Cronenberg’s films used to involve scientists or voyeurs pushing their minds and bodies to the limits. These days the body horror which was so visceral at the start of David Cronenberg’s career has become more about horrors inflicted within battered minds. The shift started with A Dangerous Method bringing psychoanalysis into his musings, then the turgid Cosmopolis sauntered through a whizz kid’s empire caving in as he is blinded by the realities around him. Now Cronenberg moves on to examining the ugly underbelly of Hollywood as Maps to the Stars exposes the darker realms of the home life of movie-makers.
Julianne Moore is Havana Segrand, a washed-up former child star clinging to her past glories while trying to reboot her career by winning a role her mother made famous. Meanwhile current teenage pin-up Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird) is also attempting to rekindle his popularity following a stint in rehab; luckily he has franchise starter “Bad Badysitter” to fall back on with a sequel in the works despite being too old for the role. Their toils in keeping their demons at bay while keeping their professional careers on track are intrinsically linked by a supporting cast who each provide further ammunition to snipe at the stardom on offer in tinseltown.
With Maps to the Stars Cronenberg brings torment into tinseltown: a Hollywood autopsy.
There’s new arrival Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) hoping to work as a maid for Havana with ulterior motives, the odd-couple marriage between Benjie’s parents of self-help guru Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) and the reserved Christina (Olivia Williams), and chauffeur Jerome Fontana (Robert Pattinson) trying his hardest to break into the the acting game. Cronenberg lets none of them off the hook from their mental suffering, playing out the twisted social circle of Hollywood in a physical manner that echoes the horrors of his early work. Maps to the Stars could have been a silly spoof about movie-making – an appearance from Carrie Fisher threatens to push in that direction – in another director’s hands, thankfully Cronenberg’s disconnected style plays well into the hands of a black satire.
There’s wry humour and, seemingly deliberate, shocking revelations that materialise when the characters become increasingly entwined in each other’s daily lives. The surprises might seem forced, but taken as a hyperbolic view of Hollywood, you don’t doubt there are famed figures who wind up like this lot. Moore is excellent as the actress haunted by her mother’s superior career while the comments on child actors seem more apt now than even when Drew Barrymore was making headlines for the wrong reasons. The affect of Agatha on the Weiss family is significant as a comment on the messed up price of fame. With Maps to the Stars Cronenberg brings torment into tinseltown: a Hollywood autopsy.