TIFF Journal: ‘Maps to the Stars’

'Maps to the Stars'

Movie Rating:


David Cronenberg is a filmmaker with predictably singular cinematic fetishes and obsessions. Yet beyond those ticks that mark his unique directing style, his interests have been hard to pin down over his last few movies. Seemingly disinterested in the genres that once defined his career, he’s now on a quest to define himself as a versatile art house auteur, with increasingly frustrating results.

In ‘Maps to the Stars’, Cronenberg takes on Hollywood satire, yet doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in this new genre. The script by Bruce Wagner (‘Wild Palms’) is filled with disdainful humor about La-la-land phonies, while Cronenberg’s direction piles on additional layers of disdain. At times, even he seems to be disgusted by the script.

Characters speak in cold and calculated tones that feel neither natural nor funny. Julianne Moore plays a washed-up former sexpot haunted by her Hollywood past. John Cusack plays a spiritual guru more concerned with fame and making deals than his clients. Evan Bird is a nasty child star. Mia Wasikowska is a burn victim with a tragic past. Robert Pattison plays a limo driver with delusions of grandure, etc. The film is a stilted and awkward collection of showbiz clichés about superficial bimbos and fame-hungry hangers-on that pile on top of each other until the story finally slides into the realm of psychosexual perversion that Cronenberg can handle with ease.

Yet even there, the director seems disinterested. (And let’s not even speak of one of the worst visual effects ever committed to a major film.) ‘Maps to the Stars’ feels like a tossed-off effort by a bored artist unsure of what he wants to do anymore, and that’s a sad state of affairs for a man who was once one of the most interesting filmmakers around. Hopefully, Cronenberg feels this sense of inertia in his career as well. Maybe the best left turn he could make now would be to loop all the way back to his beginnings in horror. Lord knows that genre could use the infusion of intellect, cynicism, perversion and psychology that are wasted on this limp project.

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