David Cronenberg's recent outing is a messy, sinister meditation on Hollywood. It's a film suited to Cronenberg's style, and although it's a bold statement about a corrupt institution that many directors wouldn't touch, everything the filmmakers were trying to say in Maps to the Stars gets lost due to its uninteresting, derivative script.
Julianne Moore stars as Havana Segrand, a struggling actress who lives in the shadow of her mother. She is haunted by visions of her, but wants to star in the remake of the film that made her mother a cult star. Meanwhile, child star Benjie Weiss is struggling with drugs and his relationship with his family. Benjie's sister Agatha is Havana's assistant, who is also struggling with her own personal demons, having been involved in a house fire that has left her badly scarred. John Cusack, Olivia Williams and Robert Pattinson all show up in varied roles, but this abundance of characters is too much for the film's modest runtime, and Cronenberg doesn't have enough time or material to justify it.
The script, written by Bruce Wagner, tells a simple story, with random injections of toilet humour and crude dialogue that try to distract it from its bland plainness. I couldn't help but think Cronenberg wanted to paint a bigger picture than the story would allow him, as the director tackles head-on the nastiness and detrimental effects of fame, but it's hampered by a story that's overly complicated and distant.
The performances were fine, with Wasikowska as Agatha being the standout for me. The bizarre relationship between her parents was one of the most interesting points of the film, but along with Pattinson's character, they were thrust to the side to make room for the tedious relationship between Agatha and Havana. Being the audacious director that he is, Cronenberg also tried to incorporate horror elements in the film, with the subplot of Benjie dealing with the death of one of his fans. But this just ends up as another promising but unexplored vignette that could have saved Maps to the Stars from the doldrums.
If Cronenberg was given free reign over a film like this, I feel like it would be a hell of a lot more insightful and worthwhile. But Maps to the Stars is a series of intermittent scenes of striking grotesquery smothered in motonous melodrama that doesn't really offer much wisdom at all.