Under the Hollywood shine
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Under the Hollywood shine

There is something inherently sad in Julianne Moore (right) and Mia Wasikowska in Maps to the Stars.

There is something inherently sad in Julianne Moore (right) and Mia Wasikowska in Maps to the Stars.

Maps to the Stars (2014)
Certified: 18
Duration: 112 minutes
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Starring: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon, Evan Bird, Carrie Fisher
KRS Releasing Ltd

Maps to the Stars is a cold and clinical film in the best vein of Canadian maestro David Cronenberg. Here the director works like a surgeon, dissecting and analaysing Hollywood as he peels away layers of sheen and gloss in this satirical film.

The film is about Hollywood but it’s also about Hollywood families and, even more so, Hollywood children. The film’s script is written by Bruce Wagner, an American novelist, screenwriter and producer who is famous for his cynical look at Hollywood and the machinations that lie under the covers.

It is also the first time the director opted to make a movie in the US and he tries to encapsulate the feel of Hollywood by inserting all the right landmarks. However, it is the characters’ relationships, the egos that are in play, the surreal world of celebrities and also a sense of desperation that are the most important ingredients here.

Julianne Moore plays Havana Segrand, a Hollywood actress who is seen as royalty in town. She is the daughter of Clarice Taggart, a classic Hollywood diva from the golden age of Hollywood and has long died in a fire. However, she appears to her daughter in ghostly form.

Havana has become more desperate and nervous as she is on the verge of making an independent movie – one that remakes her mother’s most famous film and in which she will play the role made famous by her mother.

The way director Cronenberg analyses and looks at the characters and their descent into personal abysses is enthralling and hypnotic

Then there is Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska), a teenager who has burn scars and is thus always wearing gloves, who starts working as Havana’s personal assistant. She is part of the Weiss family who is also another well-known clan in Hollywood. Her mother Cristina (Olivia Williams) dominates her brother Benjie (Evan Bird) as she propels his career as a kid star. Her father, Dr Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), is a psychologist to the stars.

In all this enters Jerome Fontana (Robert Pattinson), a limousine driver with Hollywood aspirations – like most waiters, bell boys and other such jobs in Tinseltown.

The way director Cronenberg analyses and looks at the characters and their descent into personal abysses is enthralling and hypnotic. In his recent movies – A Dangerous Method (2011) and Cosmopolis (2012) – he has taken a character dissection approach and here he finds scathing fuel for his fire. Even the setting he chooses – the cold and artificial, chic and expensive houses – further give the characters cause to self-destruction. Everyone has a secret and they try to cover it up with what Hollywood supplies them with.

Moore plays well the role of a deranged and nerve-ridden woman. Wasikowska plays her role in a classic Cronenberg manner, harking back to his early years especially in the way she plays a beautiful porcelain doll that has been both exteriorly and internally scarred.

Williams is in control or so we think, but Cusack and young Bird steal the scenes from her as they seem to be playing parts inspired by real life characters with shades of well-known characters in their performances.

Cronenberg is not afraid to infuse some weird elements into the proceedings and these add further to the bizarre atmosphere of this town.

Maps to the Stars will appeal most of all to Cronenberg fans. But the film also acts as the perfect map for those who want to take a walk on the wild side and see what lies behind the glitzy facades of the Hollywood mansions.

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