I love David Cronenberg. And not just because of his early stuff. In the last 10 years, I put three of his films on my year-end Top Ten, namely “Cosmopolis”, “Eastern Promises” and “A History of Violence”, the latter at #1, no less.
So it brings me no pleasure to write that “Maps to the Stars” might be the worst thing he’s ever made. Here’s a pretentious, contrived, disjointed picture filled with endless forced dialogue and preposterous situations. I guess screenwriter Bruce Wagner is to blame for most of that, but Cronenberg has to take some responsibility for how visually unappealing, sluggishly paced and tone-deaf the movie is.
Ostensibly about Hollywood, as the heavy-handed name-dropping of real-life actors, directors and producers constantly reminds us, “Maps to the the Stars” never seems to be sure whether it’s a (bad) satire or a (bad) melodrama. We meet an obnoxious child star (Evan Bird), his mother and manager (Olivia Williams) and his father (John Cusack), a therapist whose patients include a neurotic hasbeen actress (Julianne Moore) who just hired a new assistant (Mia Wasikowska) that happens to have a connection to the child actor’s family…
Add a lot of references to incest, fire and hallucinations and you’ll have a pretty close idea of what we’re dealing with here. Lots of fucked up showbiz people fucking up some more, basically. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing: a few days before I saw “Maps to the Stars”, I saw “Birdman”, which is also about fucked up showbiz people, but which manages to make them fascinating and hilarious instead of the boring, unfunny caricatures we’re stuck with here. Plus, compared to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s masterpiece, Cronenberg’s film feels all the more lame, labored and lifeless.
I guess I should mention that it’s not entirely bad… Some of the performances are good, Julianne Moore’s notably. But hardly enough to make up for how flawed a picture this is.