Maps To The Stars (2014)

4 Mar

Ah, to be David Cronenberg.

The Provocateur’s 21st (!!!) feature film Maps To The Stars marks a true return to form for the director, after his previous film Cosmopolis underperformed critically and commercially back in 2012.  Ever since 2006’s excellent A History of Violence, Mr. Cronenberg seems to have abandoned his gore-filled fascination with bodily horror in favor of darkly and subtly examining the psychological horror embedded deep within ourselves. Maps To The Stars is no different. 

The Film focuses on an atypical hollywood family, particularly when Agatha Weiss (played brilliantly by Mia Wasikowska) comes back home from a mysterious Florida trip. Her mother and father (played by Olivia Williams and John Cusack) each have their own set of issues at play, most of which become increasingly complicated with Agatha’s unwelcome return.  Thier troubles don’t hold a candle to actress Havana’s (Julianne Moore) however, as she is on the brink of scoring the film role of a lifetime, and in a strange coincidence, hires Agatha as her personal assistant or self described “chore-whore”. 

One of Maps’ greatest highlights is in it’s casting. Appearances by Robert Pattinson and Sarah Gadon round out a wonderfully dark and amusing bunch of performances, and newcomer Evan Bird provides a very unorthodox look at child acting.  At times the script wanders aimlessly into rants about love, destiny, and forgiveness. At other times it divulges into vigana jokes.

Darkly bizarre and completely entrancing, Maps To The Stars certainly is poised to stir up quite the talk among hollywood circles, and deserves our full attention. Cronenberg has a knack for exposing and reveling in the hidden fears and desires of his characters and this film is one of his best examinations of the egocentric and conflicted mind at work. With an obvious distain (possibly even hatred) for the hollywood lifestyle Maps effectively disseminates the frail and futile search for personal fulfillment in a land riddled with commercial exploitation and extravagance.

This film is 100% Cronenberg at his most cynical best. The ugly characters manipulate, control and exploit one another, in the convoluted, erratic, and thorny environment that is the modern film industry. While the film does speak at multiple levels, it becomes clear early on that Cronenberg has developed a singular message: despite its glitzy and star-gazed appeal, there is a treacherous, cold, and violent facet of hollywood lurking just beneath surface.

Bottom Line: With an ensemble cast, Maps To The Stars makes for some ugly but fascinating viewing and a true return-to-form for Cronenberg.

Rating – 7/10 

Film Recipie: Cosmopolis (2012) + Nightcrawler (2014) + Mulholland Dr. (2001) 

 

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