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Maps to the Stars
4/5
dir David Cronenberg
scr Bruce Wagner
prd Said Ben Said, Martin Katz, Michel Merkt
with Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Evan Bird, Justin Kelly, Sarah Gadon, Kiara Glasco, Jonathan Watton, Jennifer Gibson, Carrie Fisher
release UK 26.Sep.14
14/US 1h51
Maps to the Stars
Personal assistance: Wasikowska and Moore

williams cusack pattinson

33rd Shadows Awards
BEST ACTRESS
JULIANNE MOORE


CANNES FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Maps to the Stars Clever and very grim, this trawl through the inbred underbelly of Hollywood is watchable thanks to Cronenberg's sleek direction, Wagner's deranged script and a cast of strong actors who are clearly happy to send up their industry. As the story's multiple strands become increasingly entangled, the film begins to resemble a glamorous/gruesome freak show.

Agatha (Wasikowska) arrives in Los Angeles on a mission, collected by chauffeur Jerome (Pattinson) and driven to the ruins of a Hollywood Hills house. She uses a connection with Carrie Fisher to get a job as personal assistant to actress Havana (Moore), who is desperate for a comeback role. Meanwhile, 13-year-old star Benjie (Bird) is out of rehab and ready to start acting again, with prodding from his manager mother (Williams) and self-help guru dad (Cusack). But everyone is hiding their true natures, and these people are linked in ways no one wants to admit.

Cronenberg has a great time lampooning the lifestyles of the rich and famous, letting his cameras glide through grand homes lived in by people who do little more than get massages, go to therapy and shop. But each person is crippled by self-doubt, willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, whether that's celebrating another's misfortune or obscuring the truth about their past. Clearly morality has no place among people so desperate for the next big break.

The performances are terrific, mainly because they allow the actors to ricochet around the characters' splintered personalities. Moore is fierce as a shameless attention-seeker, and when she lets Havana's mask slip even a little bit it's startlingly wrenching. Williams is the other standout as the stony-faced Hollywood mom whose insides are tied in knots. Cusack is fearsome as a control freak determined to be perceived as a good guy, while Wasikowska, Pattinson and Bird all have unnerving moments of their own.

The script takes some risks that don't always work, such as the way the more mentally unstable characters see the ghosts of people who have died along the way. And the elemental touches (fire and water everywhere) are somewhat heavy-handed. But they add to the sense that there's an even bigger picture that these messy people fit into, and the whiff of truth in every scene should force anyone expecting a starry Hollywood career to pause and think it through.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality 11.Sep.14

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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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