Listen above, to the review by Dennis Morton – and read it below.
Maps To The Stars is a very strange film. It’s filled with subjects and situations that most of us don’t talk about, at least in public. It’s described as a comedy, and indeed, there are laughs. But the humor is almost unrelentingly dark. If I had to describe it in a sentence, I’d say the movie is a vicious satire on the self-obsession that sometimes accompanies fame. Unsurprisingly, it’s set in Hollywood?
This is not a film for children, notwithstanding that the most interesting character in the movie is a precocious thirteen year old named Benjie. Benjie is an actor. He’s jaded, extremely witty, very wealthy, and, when angry, displays a nasty touch of sexism and anti-semitism. He’s also in rehab. Benjie is played by Evan Bird, a young Canadian performer possessed of impeccable timing.
Benjie’s dad, a fellow named Stafford Weiss, is played by John Cusack. Stafford is a shyster. He makes big bucks posing as a self-help guru to Hollywood luminaries. He spouts feel good clichés, massages beautiful women, and protects his image zealously. Needless to say, his personal life falls somewhat short of the pieties he preaches.
The most mysterious character in the film is Benjie’s sister, Agatha. She’s been separated from the family for several years, due to a bout of pyromania. Without notifying the family, she stealthily insinuates herself into the neighborhood – waiting for the right moment to re-enter ‘home, not-so-sweet home’. Agatha is played with just the right touch by Mia Wasikowska.
While Agatha bides her time, she secures a job as the personal assistant to one of her father’s clients, Havana Segrand. Havana is played by Julianne Moore. Havana is a washed-up actress desperately trying to land a role. In her feckless pursuit of the part, she sleeps with ‘the right people’, even gleefully takes advantage of the untimely death of a child.
Director David Cronenberg and writer Bruce Wagner have created perhaps the most bizarre film I’ve ever seen. If you’re in the mood to ingest tales of multi-generational incest, contagious hallucinations, immolation, child abuse, murder, pyromania, familial internecine and scenes of defecation, not to mention the profitable sale of the excreta of famous actors – then you’ll appreciate Maps To The Stars.
Cronenberg’s tongue is so deeply in cheek that I’m not even sure which cheek it’s in. If you’ve a hankering for something really weird, don’t miss Maps To The Stars. I’ve watched it twice, and I’ve had my fill – but I’m glad I saw it.