David Cronenberg has always been one of those “great” directors who has never really done it for me. But admittedly, I’ve seen such a limited portion of his filmography that I never really wanted to judge him because I’ve had no grounds to do so. However, it was hard trying to get into Maps to the Stars, especially when the last film of his I saw was 2012’s Cosmopolis (with Robert Pattinson) that seriously left a horrible taste in my mouth. However, Maps to the Stars, Cronenberg’s inside look at Hollywood was quite decent. It’s kicked off my curiosity of his older films and I have added most of them on my TO WATCH LIST, especially for my upcoming film retrospectives.
After her Cannes win for Best Actress, it’s not hard to say that the film is basically the Julianne Moore show. Moore, who’s always been a fan favourite (and for a reason) always finds ways to find interesting roles for women of her age bracket. She has quite an exemplary career and always shines in big ensemble pieces. It’s no different with Maps to the Stars as she plays an ageing Hollywood actress who wants to be casted in a re-make of her mother’s classic film (her mother died from a freak accident involving fire in a young age and she haunts her throughout the film). Moore’s performance is quite remarkable, and literally soulless but complex – but in this case it works. Cronenberg’s Tinsletown commentary doesn’t end with Moore as she stays a mere supporting player in a cast of many.
In addition to her, we’ve got a child star (Evan Bird) who is recently getting over a drug addition and doing a sequel to his hit Babysitter film. His Hollywood family with Mommy-ger Olivia Williams and a Hollywood therapist father played by John Cusak. Moore’s personal assistant, a previous nutcase, played by Mia Wasikowska. And lastly, a limo driver who inspires to be an actor (Robert Pattinson) who seemed completely irrelevant. But Robert Pattinson usually always is. Could this be META for Pattiinson, aspiring to be a serious actor? Keep trying, Rob.
Cronenberg’s new love for Pattinson’s acting ability still leaves me stunned. Without hurting any of his beloved fans, I honestly feel like Pattinson is one of the most limited actors Hollywood has proved in the last few years (along with the borefests that are Amanda Seyfried and Chloe Moretz). But that’s speaking without seeing The Rover (2014) which he’s supposedly good in this year. Still, he is yet to really surprise and impress me in anything that he’s done. He is the weakest link amongst a generally good cast. Wasikowska is second in line to Moore at being good, and surprisingly Evan Bird’s irritatingly confused and prickly child star deserves a good amount of recognition as well.
The truth is, Maps to the Stars is a very divisive kind of film. It has a lot of Hollywood references that could only be appreciated if you keep a close eye to that particular world. And that’s probably why I feel like I liked it. The screenplay by Bruce Wagner is very original, but often times sloppy and a little bit too contrived. I get the fact that Wagner and Cronenberg are trying to show a different (or their opinion of what the “real” Hollywood is) but even though it’s interesting, sometimes it seems a little bit too forced. However, the film works generally. It’s certainly an entertaining piece of cinema.
Apart from Julianne Moore who has a great role to showcase her talents, the film is good but it’s honestly pretty forgettable. Moore ultimately saves it and reminds everyone again why she’s one of the most celebrated modern actresses of our time. With that aside, there isn’t much to say about a film that doesn’t have exemplary technical achievements or out of this world performances. But truly, it’s wonderful to see the first film that really kicks off Julianne Moore’s banner year which is 2014. Also, grateful that Maps to the Stars is not a Cosmopolis dud and is pretty above average apart from some flaws.