Maps to the Stars is something of a jumbled up mess. We see a new arrival in town who doesn’t look like much but seems to have money to spare. She overpays a driver waiting for a fare, and asks him if he has a map of Hollywood stars’ addresses. He says no in a bored manner, and cites the few instances when he drove someone who was famous. Agatha (Wasikowska) seems to have better connections, which he (Pattinson) doesn’t seem to get. It turns out that Agatha knows Carrie Fisher (herself), who puts in a good word for her to Havana Segrand (Moore), a star desperately seeking work and needing an all-round assistant. Havana is a bit put off by Agatha’s gloved arms covering burn scars, but hires her anyway, having no inkling about who Agatha is.
Agatha is the estranged daughter of Havana’s “therapist” (Cusack), who with his wife is trying to keep Agatha away after she was discharged from a mental institution following an incident with fire. They have aspirations for their son Benjie (Bird) to become a famous actor, and clearly want him to stay away from Agatha, particularly since he has just been released from rehab and his career can’t stand another scandal.
Ah…parents have such delusions about their powers over their children. Benjie and Agatha have always been close, and it is probably futile for anyone to think that they can be kept apart.
David Cronenberg, the director seems to be on a quest exploring philosophical notions and the nature of human relationships (Eastern Promises, A History of Violence, Crash, The Fly). He says, “I ask questions, but don’t have answers. Moviemaking is a philosophical exploration. I invite the audience to come on a journey and discover what they think and feel.” He has also said, “I think all my movies are funny.” I didn’t find much humor in this one that seems to be making a statement about the Hollywood culture with its single-minded quest for fame, its repudiation of boundaries and limits, and its need for soporifics to avoid pain.
As observed by another reviewer, it’s hard to tell if Cronenberg is kidding or serious (Matt Zoller Seitz, http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/maps-to-the-stars-2015). The view of Hollywood as presented in Maps to the Stars will likely not be surprising to anyone, and many may see it as a plausible account. To me, the peek shown is too narrow to make it very encompassing of the whole scene. So the film turns out to be more sensational than an insightful perspective.
Certainly, the actors—notably Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Evan Bird, and Robert Pattinson—are truly fine in their portrayals. I just wish the script by Bruce Wegner had more substance.
Go for the acting; not the story.
Grade: C- By Donna R. Copeland