Vicious Hollywood Satire Exorcises The Ghosts Of Greed. Stellar.
Rolling of the bus from Jupiter, Florida, Mia Wasikowska plays Agatha in David Cronenberg’s latest deliciously weird endeavor, Maps to the Stars, she’s an immediately intriguing mystery – one f a series of intriguing roles to date that shows extreme promise from the young actor.
She’s a sort of slouching Audrey Hepburn in a black dress and elbow length gloves, but without the celluloid icon’s sparkling presence. Scarred both literally and figuratively, she has come to the land of broken dreams ostensibly to visit the hot spots of Hollywood stars, but like most of the characters within, she’s nurturing a hidden agenda.
Encountering the typical LA stereotype in Robert Pattinson’s Jerome, a would-be actor currently cruising around town as a limo driver to the real stars of the show, the possibility of romance, like most ambitions in this town, soon head south.
Julianne Moore is also incredible as the neurotic actor Havana, losing her grip on stardom and desperate to score a big role playing her own mother, a celebrated movie siren herself who died tragically in a fire – a recurring theme in this Icarus-like tale. A monstrous creature, Havana will stop at nothing to secure her continued place in the sun, even if it means playing on the hideous misfortune of others.
Agatha inveigles herself into Havana’s home as her PA, with help from a spot on cameo from Carrie Fisher as a parody of herself, reminiscent of her turn in Sex and the City’s sojourn in LA. Also in this heady mix is Havana’s masseur cum therapist Stafford (John Cusack), his pushy but fragile stage-mom wife Christina (Olivia Williams) and their Bieber-level brat of a teen comedy star Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird), in the midst of shooting the truly awful sounding Bad Babysitter 2. Hating on a young upstart who’s stealing his limelight, Benjie also makes a sick-making visit to a young fan in hospital, rejecting her cause when he deems her particular condition as not marketable.
Haunted by Lynchian ghosts and reminiscent of his own doomed dystopia Cosmopolis, Maps to the Stars is as brutal a satire of the Hollywood dream as there has been in many a year. Cronenberg lances this shallow and vicious world, twisted by the fractured reflection of perfection.
Moore is incredible, as is Wasikowska, with their fractious relationship unhealthy to say the least. Bird is also one to watch. There’s even a glimpse or two of Cronenberg’s trademark body horror in the film’s rather spectacular finale as this highly flammable affair sets ablaze. Some will miss his old, ore firmly horror, direction, but I, for one, am fascinated to see where this new map is taking him.
Stephen A Russell