A Hollywood satire so angry and arrogant it’s peculiar. The new David Cronenberg film Maps to the Stars encompasses a Hollywood megalomaniac, a psychologist guru, a washed-up actress, an overpaid child star who is 13 and just out of rehab. And then a stalker who becomes a personal assistant, and a limo driver who has a script he’s working on. There are some brilliant jabs: “I just spent $18,000” the washed-up actress complains after purchasing Rodeo Drive clothes, or “I never want to be humiliated like that ever again!” the child star sobs after a meeting with executives who inquire about his sobriety. But there are some morose dead-ends in the script, too, by screenwriter Bruce Wagner working from his novel.
From the cast, Julianne Moore as the washed-up actress who wants to play her dead mother in a new film, and Evan Bird as the lewd-speaking child star are the most compelling figures. I look at the rest of the cast, including John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson and Sarah Gadon and they are all unsatisfactory to me in some way, either shallow and underdrawn or coarse and overdrawn. Each subplot leads to a bitter and grudging point. I wanted them to have more pursuits and failures, or more purpose of being there.
I never doubted that this was indeed a Cronenberg film (“A History of Violence,” “Eastern Promises” made him temporarily more mainstream, a dirty word for him), but “Maps to the Stars” has no scenes that are comparable to vintage powerful Cronenberg. For general moviegoers, it’s going to be quite repellant. Novice moviegoers will say it goes nowhere and is so it must be one of the worst movies ever. Let me tell you about one scene: Moore instructing her personal assistant Wasikowska to go out and buy a ton of drug store supplies and specialty items on an errand run that would take anybody all day. I don’t think it’s one of the worst movies ever. I found that such scene darkly amusing, although I’m aware others will balk at the sight of such an obscene self-important Hollywood star. I’m the kind of person that’s OK with movies that have no likeable characters.
But there’s just not enough here, not enough incisive Hollywood commentary to overcome the lags or to justify the gross over-exaggerations of the industry. There’s a scene where a bunch of Hollywood brats talk about GMILF (the “G” standing for grandmother) and who would perform cunnilingus on a star while she was on her period. Hmm… Actually, I used to stand around parties amongst terribly superficial Hollywood brats, so now I do recall from experience, brats speaking vulgar for the heck of it is not too far a stretch from the truth.
I was sometimes glued to the screen. Bird, with his sloping shoulders and anemic body frame, is the star of a made-up Hollywood hit called “Bad Babysitter” and the franchise survival depends on him staying sober. This brat says some of the most shockingly vile things. He has a petulant disdain of co-stars, managers and gossip journalists. All of it is just terrible behavior. How terribly amusing though.
I don’t regret watching “Maps to the Stars” no matter how arrogant and cynical it was. Yet even as a longtime Cronenberg admirer it’s not like I needed it either.
108 Minutes. Rated R.
HOLLYWOOD SATIRE / MIND-BENDER / SATURDAY NIGHT WEIRDNESS