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MAPS TO THE STARS

SYNOPSIS: The Weiss family is the archetypical Hollywood dynasty: father Stafford (John Cusack) is an analyst and coach who has made a fortune with his self-help manuals; mother Cristina (Olivia Williams) mostly looks after the career of their son Benjie (Evan Bird), 13, a child star. One of Stafford's clients, Havana (Julianne Moore), is an actress who dreams of shooting a remake of the movie that made her mother, Clarice (Sarah Gordon), a star in the 60s. Clarice is dead now and visions of her come to haunt Havana at night. Benjie, who also sees dead people, has just come off a rehab program he joined when he was nine and his sister, Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), has recently been released from a sanatorium where she was treated for criminal pyromania ...

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With its themes of incest, suicide, death and greed, Maps to the Stars is a caricature masquerading as a satire and playing like a nihilist expose. It's Hollywood of sorts, but it tries so hard to feed off the offal at the blunted glitter of a buffet of fame and fortune that it alienates us. These are grotesque characters, and even the least reprehensible; most pitiable - Mia Wasikowska's superbly delivered Agatha - is unredeemable.

While it is not essential that audiences like any of the characters in a film, it would be more accessible if we could discern profound meaning in the story and the selfish, self destructive people.

There is no doubt, though, that this is bravura filmmaking by David Cronenberg, an edgy, risky and in many ways powerful evocation of a particular social malaise. Graphic sex, graphic death and graphic lives all collide on the screen in an orgy of self delusion and giant demons that follow the characters - in some cases as disturbing ghosts manifesting themselves at deadly moments.

Performances are chillingly good, from Julianne Moore's self obsessed, vulnerable and pitiful Havana to 13 year old Evan Bird as the mean-spirited, spoilt, potty mouth child star Benji and everyone in between, they are all messed up and beyond redemption. That is perhaps why the film doesn't work for me.

Review by Louise Keller:
Using the worst of Hollywood to glue its string of unlikeable, disturbed characters together, David Cronenberg has created a bizarre and repulsive reality of extremes. To his credit, Cronenberg goes for the jugular in this satire, although for me, it never quite hits the mark. Much of the narrative feels as though it aims to shock, yet somehow, the mix of elements that include incest, seeing dead people, naked orgies, unadulterated egos and a demented schizophrenic does not offer anything we have not seen before. Certainly, the unlikely scenarios portray many truths, but in the end curiosity turns to tedium as the excesses reach saturation point.

Mia Wasikowska as the mousy Agatha is the first character we meet, sleeping on a plane bound for LA. She seems innocuous enough as she taps on the window of a waiting limo with her long black gloves, waking Jerome the driver (Robert Pattinson, especially good), an out of work actor who believes that everything is research on some level. Julianne Moore plays Havana, the self-obsessed actress who is haunted by her dead mother. This doesn't deter her from desperately wanting to play her mother in the remake of one of her films. Insecurity and insincerity could be her middle names. Then there is Evan Bird who plays Benji, the 13 year old brat child-star out of rehab and who has no redeeming qualities. His pretentious, health-guru father Dr Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is an author whose designer home and practice are straight out of Architectural Digest. Cusack is deliciously strange. His focus is publicity and his upcoming book tour. Olivia Williams plays Benji's 'stage-mother' agent, who is both formidable and pathetic.

Wasikowska and Moore have most of the screen time and theirs are the most showy roles. Havana is the stepping stone Agatha needs to cross the emotional bridge for which she has come to LA. Fire and water play an integral part. While Havana's histrionics become tiring after a while, her character is immediately recognisable as a Hollywood fixture. The exact nature of Agatha's motives and history are best discovered in the course of seeing the film. The colourful roles are candy to the actors - what's not to like about playing a character who gets what they want one way or another.

The constant name-dropping works as jewellery to the scenario and there is no doubt that Cronenberg keeps us on edge. In terms of genre, this is not Cronenberg's best work, but one thing is for sure, there is plenty to talk about.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

MAPS TO THE STARS (MA15+)
(US, 2014)

CAST: Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Carrie Fisher, Sarah Gadon, Olivia Williams, Evan Bird

PRODUCER: Sa•d Ben Sa•d, Martin Katz, Michel Merkt

DIRECTOR: David Cronenberg

SCRIPT: Bruce Wagner

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Suschitzky

EDITOR: Ronald Sanders

MUSIC: Howard Shore

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Carol Spier

RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: eOne

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 20, 2014







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