David Cronenberg's twisted take on Hollywood will suck you in and spit you out
Director David Cronenberg made his name in the ’80s with sci-fi chillers like Videodrome and The Fly. With Maps to the Stars he’s back to his wicked best with a creepy satire about our obsession with celebrity set in a vision of Hollywood in keeping with the twisted work of David Lynch. Tinseltown itself appears as a series of vacant tableaus exposing the frayed edges of the Hollywood sign and the vacuous world of air kisses and backstabbing.
Julianne Moore (on OTT Oscar form) plays fading Hollywood diva Havana Segrand who employs Mia Wasikowska’s Agatha as her personal assistant. With a history of psychotic episodes and self-harm we learn of Agatha’s murky past and her desire to reconnect with her estranged family through her encounters with limo driver and wannabe actor Jerome (Robert Pattinson).
In the blackest of comedies Segrand, desperate for a career-defining role, celebrates wildly when her rival quits the race after her son dies in an accident. Meanwhile, Cronenberg riffs on Macaulay Culkin when we meet child star tween Benjie (impressive newcomer Evan Bird) who pays the price of fame with the loss of childhood. He faces up to the pitfalls of stardom, including rehab at 13 and shooting his best friend’s dog during a moment of madness when he’s trying to impress girls with his gun skills, in the glare of the media spotlight.
In recent years Cronenberg made the tense thrillers A History of Violence and Eastern Promises and employs the same brutality here when Benjie attempts to strangle a child star rival during an on set feud. Connecting the dots the from Agatha To Benjie, the dystopian nuclear family is completed by maniacal self-help guru father Dr. Stafford Weiss (a typically strung out John Cusack) and angst-ridden agent mother Christina (Olivia Williams) facing marital meltdown. A tangled web of sordid family secrets plays like the Lynch mystery Mulholland Drive. Cronenberg looks at what happens when the dreams of stardom don’t play out. His distorted glimpse behind the velvet curtain of fame will suck you in and spit you out.