A review of David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars” — not quite satire, not quite melodrama. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
Almost over-the-top enough to be a guilty pleasure, but not quite, David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars” plays like an issue of the National Inquirer brought to life. Drug-addled actresses! Strangely exquisite ghosts! Mysterious disappearances! Incest! Screwed-up child stars! Schizophrenia! Beautifully decorated homes! Limo drivers played by that guy from “Twilight”! And a cast full of good actors, valiantly trying to find the sweet spot between satire and melodrama.
The characters here are an assortment of Hollywood types, none of them particularly intriguing. Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) is a beginning-to-be-washed-up actress, hooked on pills and self-pity. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is a self-help guru (“What we name, we can tame!”) whose own personal life is a mess: a stilted relationship with wife Cristina (Olivia Williams) and their 13-year-old son Benjie (Evan Bird), a troubled child star just out of rehab. And then there’s the mysterious Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), new in town, who manages to attach herself both to Havana and to the aforementioned limo driver (Robert Pattinson), who tells us, in deadpan, that he’s considering converting to Scientology as “a career move.”
The acting is often as flat as the L.A. sunshine looks in this movie, and the whole thing just has a too-obvious feel to it; as if the makers watched “The Player” a few too many times. Wasikowska, usually a vivid and interesting performer, here has apparently been instructed simply to act trippy; eventually her choices make some sense, but not until after you’ve written off the movie. Moore, alone in the cast, finds some interesting moments (though not during an especially tasteless bathroom scene), giving a hint of what “Maps to the Stars” might have been. We see a long close-up of Havana, who’s just received bad news; Moore’s reacting face, in a slow burn, tells a short story from beginning, middle and end, in just a few seconds. Then she howls — as, if trapped in this movie, you might, too.
Movie Review ★★
‘Maps to the Stars,’ with Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Evan Bird. Directed by David Cronenberg, from a screenplay by Bruce Wagner. 111 minutes. Rated R for strong disturbing violence and sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some drug material. Sundance (21+), Uptown.