“On the forehead of my friends, on every hand held out, I write your name.”
A dark and dreamlike view into the incestous nature of Hollywood,Maps to the Stars has been in development for 6 years and there were times when David Cronenberg didn’t think the film would ever be made.
He’s quotes as saying in 2012 “I tried it five years ago, I couldn’t get it made, so I still might not be able to get it made”.
Thank goodness he managed to do it and this is the first Cronenberg film made in the U.S as opposed to Canada.
The plot is a serpentine tale concerning the Weiss family, fading starlet Havana Segrand and the girl who connects them both. With Tinseltown providing the backdrop there are plenty of knowing winks at the absurdity and nasty nature of Hollywood. The screenplay, written by Bruce Wagner is brilliant and his acerbic outlook of Hollywood is in full effect.
The Weiss Family are Dr. Stafford Weiss played with ease by John Cusack (in his trademark black ensemble, with cap – natch.) a narcissistic TV psychologist who has Havana Segrand as a client. He’s both hilarious and off kilter. Olivia Williams plays his wife Cristina who seems to derive all her worth from controlling her son and his career. Evan Bird plays her son Benjie Weiss, a somewhat Bieber-esque character. A child star who at at 13 is in rehab for drug addiction and has quite the attitude problem.
Havana Segrand played brilliantly by Julianne Moore is a famous actress with a spoilt eccentricity that reminded me of Lindsay Lohan but could just as easily be any current seemingly egocentric starlet. She is the daughter of screen legend Clarice Taggart who Havana has claimed sexually abused her as a child, something that comes up frequently in her sessions with Dr. Stafford Weiss. Havana is your typical egocentric fading star, she’s getting older, roles are drying up and now she has the chance to play her mother in a remake of her mothers most famous role. Whether it’s the copious amounts of pills in her system or a case of psychosis she occasionally sees her dead mother hanging around her house. Literally haunting her. There is something very Sunset Boulevard about the situation..Havana is ready for her close up!
Agatha Weiss is the girl that binds the stories together and is played to perfection by Mia Wasikowska. Agatha arrives in Hollywood to visit family and meets Jerome Fontana played by Robert Pattison, an actor/writer who drives limos for the rich and famous to pay the bills. Of all the characters in the film Jerome felt like the least important, he just pops in now and again but while his character seems unimportant it’s his character that is the catalyst for a lot of what happens towards the end of the film.
It transpires that Agatha knows Carrie Fisher via Twitter, which I thought was a wonderful way to again highlight the absurdity of celebrity and the symbiotic nature of social media.
Havana and Carrie bump into each other in a fantastic cameo;
“How are you?” asks Havana embracing Carrie.
“When I get in touch with myself, I’ll let you know” Classic Fisher.
and it’s Fisher who recommends Agatha become Havana’s personal assistant and thus the stories start to bind even closer as more is revealed about all concerned.
The film is shot beautifully, cinematography by Peter Suschitzky manages to captures the classy yet soft core vibe that we tend to think of when picturing certain areas of L.A. Every shot was lined up perfectly and gave the sometimes surreal and nightmarish world an elegance and style that just worked perfectly.
Themes of incest, mental illness, fire and water, jealousy, forgiveness and retribution and never quite knowing where the line between reality and fiction blurs Maps to the Stars is a complex and fascinating watch that is worth every second of your time. Easily one of the best films of the year.
A Shared Madness