Shock-factor will only take you so far, and past the horror of the lengths these manic two-bit shoddy stars will go to come out on top, there isn’t much else to David Cronenberg’s Hollywood–critiquing Maps To The Stars. At the centre of the amoral whirlpool is Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), a desperate wannabe actress trying to land the role her deceased mother made famous in the remake of the old classic, who is also dealing with the mental scars from the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of said famous mother. There’s a whole lot of crazy going on here, from haunting dead child visions to spontaneous combustion to sibling marriage simulation, but all in all, Maps To The Stars fails to make much of an impact, despite such an impressive cast (John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska and Robert Pattinson also star as various players in the movie game).
If people aren’t screwing each other’s boyfriends, screwing over their friends or screwing up their kids through various degrees of abuse, they are busy trying to cope with personal demons that, quite literally, keep popping up to say hi at the most inconvenient of times. But the merging of surrealist hallucinations into this lion’s-den-of-an-urban world feels forced, blundered and confused. If the point is that there’s a schizophrenic Hollywood bug going around, commit to it, Cron’, but it can’t be a plot add-on what with everything else we are supposed to swallow.
Julianne Moore, a brilliant actress, only sufficed under Cronenberg’s direction to simulate adequately a spoilt rich-bitch Hollywood lady with a lust for a fame that is fast withering. Well, congratulations: but where’s the meaning? The film was touching on interesting themes and narrative strands that always unravelled into irritating nothingness. Even the dialogue failed to be witty and ironic – surely an important part, if not the most, of a satire like this – because it didn’t know exactly what it was meant to be ironic about. It’s a shame that Cronenberg didn’t run with the idea that these three characters were plagued by phantoms of their fucked up past more deeply, because there was such a lack of conviction in these hallucinatory displays that you couldn’t take them seriously. For a story based on the effects of incest, pedophilia and murder in the Hollywood-spotlight environment, we needed to believe it all could happen before moving on to dark humour.
Robert Pattinson, who has ironically wound up in a limousine under Cronenberg’s watch yet again, yet again is about as bland to watch as it must be to be Havana Segrand’s agent. When all is said and done, he is playing the part of a dildo, and doing it beautifully, with no expression, no agency, and no part in the final outcome of the film.
Let’s just call a spade a spade: this film was dull, and the trope of the over the hill actress has been done before, and it has been done much better (a role Bette Davis basically invented and that obviously no one has done justice since). Adding a smorgasbord of other exaggerated plot-lines including incest and mental illness did not help to make the film any richer or more interesting, but only emphasised the poorly written screenplay, making for a more dull movie. As we said in our review of new filmmaker Ben Rider, a clear vision and script is essential for a consistent and thrilling story, and without one your film will always lack finesse (even if you are a big shot like Cronenberg). The film was literally so dull that I (Amelia) fell asleep. Fully asleep. Correct, I paid $13 for a ticket, to have a nap.
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The Everyman cave on Baker street is a gorgeous little Hollywood-evoking cavern underground: cosy, comfortable and plush. There’s everything you could possibly expect from a boutique cinema chain: cocktails, posh snacks (flavoured nuts, olives and pitta etc), cakes and nachos, bespoke poster art, velvet sofas, friendly staff, low lights and comfy armchairs. We very much enjoyed selecting a bit of everything from the food and drink on offer, relaxing in the chic seating area with our wine and discussing the different film art surrounding us.
If you want an underground slice of luxury, and a cool place to have a drink in before the movie, this Everyman is your place. The screening room itself, however, was slightly uninspiring and draughty, despite the cosiness of the soft armchairs.