Maps to the Stars (2014)

Maps to the stars

A review by Nalini Haynes

MAPS TO THE STARS opens exclusively at Cinema Nova, Melbourne, and Dendy Newtown, Sydney, on November 20.

Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Bruce Wagner (screenplay)
Stars: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Evan Bird, Carrie Fisher
Running time: 111 minutes
Rating: MA+

TRIGGER WARNINGS: sex, full-frontal nudity, drugs, drug abuse by a minor, violence including domestic violence and violence to an animal, incest

Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) rides a bus into LA. She is scarred, literally: there are burn scars on her face and neck. She keeps her arms covered. In spite of being disfigured, she’s come to LA where she engages Jerome (Robert Pattinson) as her driver. Jerome gives Agatha a tour, beginning with the ruins of a house that was burnt down years before. Agatha tells Jerome stories, most of which sound outrageous, like a stalkery fan. Jerome seems fascinated and yet he backs away.

Gradually three seemingly separate plot-lines unfold. Child actor Benji Weiss (allegedly 13 years old, played by Evan Bird) behaves appallingly in a hospital and in a business meeting where he’s hoping his under-age drug abuse does not end his career. Benji’s father, Dr Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), just wants everything to stay stable until after his book tour. Benji’s mother, Christina Weiss (Olivia Williams), is walking on eggshells around Stafford and Benji, playing peacemaker.

Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) wants to play her mother in a reboot/spin off of her mother’s cult movie. Havana is in therapy with Stafford but after an intense session she hallucinates her mother as a young woman. They have a conversation that implies that Havana wants to fuck her mother. Or something.

Carrie Fisher helps Agatha get a job with Havana. Havana’s mother died in a fire. Havana makes a connection between her mother and Agatha that doesn’t bode well for either of the living.

Benji hallucinates seeing a terminally-ill girl he met on a hospital visit.

Let’s play a drinking game: every time any character hallucinates, take a drink.

Maps to the Stars is complicated. The three plot-threads weave together until the main players’ lives spiral out of control. None of the main players are likeable. Fleeting minor characters may be likeable but their lives are crushed beneath the selfish determination of the main players.

Opening with dark humor, Maps to the Stars then descends into utter pitch blackness. This isn’t just a piss-take like Black Books, it’s like Gone Girl only set in Hollywood. The funniest bit was when Jerome is on set for a Battlestar Galactica–type movie called Blue Matrix where the uniforms were suspiciously Star Trek. The alien makeup was a bit Galaxy Quest moved to the left cheek with a color change.

Nipples are exposed for the sake of — what? Not for the plot, as a general rule. Does a certain amount of boobage make a movie more “Literary” or “Arty”?

In one scene a threesome makes a man-sandwich (he’s the meat, of course). When he arises the women have at it like a man’s wet dream of lesbian porn. We see his erect penis until he clasps himself to masturbate while watching the women. If this scene adds to the plot at all — which is questionable — it serves only to underline Havana’s desperate dysfunctionality. Again.

Spoilers, sweetie

Possibly the longest-running ‘gag’ of the movie and the most worthy of discussion is Robert Pattinson’s role bearing in mind the parallels between his character and his real-life relationship with Kristen Stewart. Maps to the Stars almost seems to be saying that Kristen Stewart will soar above the fallout from her career-damaging relationship debacle. Unless the implication is that only men have that opportunity.

And the plot holes! At the very least, two wealthy parents went out leaving an 11 year old babysitting a 6 year old. Now she’s 18, he’s 13 and she’s baa-ack. This is crucial backstory.

Spoilers end

The Cannes Film Festival 2014 awarded Julianne Moore ‘Best Actress’ for Maps to the Stars.

Maps to the Stars combines the incest of Game of Thrones with a blackly sardonic look at Hollywood’s inhabitants while also aiming to be “capital ‘L’ Literary”. Watch this movie if you enjoyed Gone Girl or if you’d like a blacker version of other movies spoofing Hollywood’s rarified circles.

IMDB rated Maps to the Stars at 6.4 out of 10. I’m not going to rate this movie because I cannot be objective. I dislike it too much. I usually try to avoid spoilers so I can watch a movie with an open mind but Maps to the Stars is excellent advertising for doing pre-viewing research.