Bad Hollywood

Maps to the Stars (Cronenberg, Wagner, 2014)

Is it Hollywood and the movie business that does strange things to people? Or do people with an inherent predilection to strangeness find themselves naturally drawn to the business? Whichever it is, doubtless filmdom has its share of loonies who can at once be sympathetic, sad, and pathetic. So, welcome to a movie packed with many cringeworthy moments that will have you turning away from the screen and, perhaps, having you thanking your lucky stars you aren’t a movie star.

The film opens with Agatha (Mia Wasikowska, playing mentally wounded beautifully) arriving in Beverly Hills. She pays for a limo, driven by Jerome (Robert Pattinson), a wannabe screenwriter. On the recommendation of Carrie Fisher (herself), whom Agatha has been Twittering, aging star Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore, winner of Cannes Best Actress award for her highly charged and riveting performance), hires her as her gofer.

Memories of her mother torment Havana, who remembers herself being abused by her mother. However, it becomes apparent that it’s more a case of living as an actress in the shadow of a mother who was a better actress that’s actually the root of Savana’s problems, which include hallucinating conversations with her mother. Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack, a very convincing charlatan and hypocrite) treats her in some emotionally draining and unorthodox ways.

Also early in the film we meet teen Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird), a former child star, visiting a dying female fan in the hospital, a seemingly kind and empathetic fellow in the medical setting, who reveals the vileness of his character the moment he exits the hospital.

A film filled with twists and low-key but stunningly disturbing moments, it reveals little to say that Agatha is an ill girl, the daughter of the Weiss’s, who attempted to kill the entire family in a fire. She suffered disfiguring burns and found herself banished forever from the family. She claims to be cured of her psychosis and returned to seek the forgiveness of her parents and brother.

What viewers have here is an extremely sharp satire, a really sardonic look at Hollywood. Havana, for example, is a total basket case, subject to head-swinging mood changes, tortured by her own insecurity, and completely self-absorbed to the point of insensitivity to others, best exhibited by her agony over seeking the role of her mother in a remake of her mother’s famous movie, Stolen Waters. It proves stunning stuff, indeed. Benjie is a lost young soul, as taken with himself as Havana is with herself, but even lonelier; a teen without friends in a family that appears to value him for his fame and bankroll.

What viewers also have in this film is an engrossing and jump-out-of-your skin thriller. You’ll see scenes at which you will gasp; some you will barely be able to watch. And as for a happy ending, well, if you require green grass, flowers, and smiles at the conclusion of films, Map to the Stars may not be right for you. For people, however, who like to see the famous lampooned and who enjoy being scared out of their pants, have at it.

Watch the trailer here. w/c


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