I’m a complete sucker when it comes to films that take on the allure of Hollywood, or “Hollyweird” as its often called. The best film to do so that comes to mind for many is David Lynch’s 2001 film Mulholland Drive. I enjoy that film a lot and really need to give it more watches, even though it is purposely cryptic, convoluted and David Lynch refuses to tell us what its about in the first place. But nevertheless, that film still captures the strangeness and tragedy of Hollywood.
Flash forward to 2014 and we are blessed with another “Hollyweird” story by Canadian body horror and all-around auteur David Cronenberg. This film in question is titled Maps to the Stars and it stars Julianna Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Cronenberg’s latest muse Robert Pattinson, youngster Evan Bird and it was scripted by Bruce Wagner.
Moore plays a former A-list actress way past her prime, Wasikowska plays her assistant, Cusack plays a new age psychologist who treats Moore’s character, Pattinson plays a struggling actor / screenwriter whose day job is driving a limousine and Bird plays a very bratty A-list teen sensation.
The lives of these characters are quite intertwined and it’s interesting seeing what happens to them over the course of the film. But the one thing this film makes very clear is that, again, Hollywood is an incredibly weird place and makes for a very vain existence.
Moore’s Character was one of the most interesting things in the film. Seeing her struggle to cling on to her prior fame and her desperation for a role she truly wants makes her a very tragic character. But she’s a seasoned Hollywood vet, which makes her no stranger to manipulative tactics or seizing opportunities when they arise.
It’s understood early on that Wasikowska’s character doesn’t have all her marbles and when she arrives in LA she is entranced by the whole scene. The way her character seeps into the lives of the others may indeed make her the film’s main character to a degree.
Cusack plays Moore’s psychologist, with a bit of a new age flair, and is the patriarch of a very successful Hollywood family. His son is the teen superstar played by Evan Bird and along with his wife, he does his best to maintain the status quo of the family. But his own shades of darkness don’t stay dormant for long.
Pattinson’s character is the one character you don’t delve too deeply into. He is a struggling actor / screenwriter who continually keeps his dream alive despite being a limo driver for those who’ve made it in life. On a side note, I’ve been enjoying Pattinson more since the conclusion of the Twilight saga back in 2012. His prior film with Cronenberg, 2012’s Cosmopolis, was interesting but didn’t fully work in the end. But nevertheless, I hope he continues to take on interesting roles like these and with Cronenberg if possible.
My favorite character, and breakout star in the film, was Evan Bird who plays a teen superstar who in many ways emulates the persona of Justin Bieber. Bird’s character has an enormous ego and is quite the spoiled little asshole. But at times you can see some shades of decency within him. After all he is just a kid.
My favorite scenes in the film were the ones where Bird’s character hung out with his fellow teen superstar friends. Their conversations are darkly comical because what they say is just so shallow, vain, crass and entirely believable given the collective social status of them all.
Maps to the Stars is a very interesting work by Cronenberg. It likely won’t be his most memorable film but that doesn’t mean it should be slept on either. The film has a very clean, bright and pristine look to it. Likely done in order for us to perceive LA as this plastic or hollow place.
Old school Cronenberg fans many not care to watch this film but I’d recommend it to the art house types out there. It is in no way a cryptic puzzle box like David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, instead Maps to the Stars is a very sharp satire on the world of Hollywood.