Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager's day devolves into an odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart.
After getting into a serious car accident, a TV director discovers an underground sub-culture of scarred, omnisexual car-crash victims who use car accidents and the raw sexual energy they produce to try to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife.
After developing an addiction to the substance he uses to kill bugs, an exterminator accidentally kills his wife, and becomes involved in a secret government plot being orchestrated by giant bugs in a port town in North Africa.
The residents of a suburban high-rise apartment building are being infected by a strain of parasites that turn them into mindless, sex-crazed fiends out to infect others by the slightest sexual contact.
The Weiss family is the archetypical Hollywood dynasty: father Stafford is an analyst and coach, who has made a fortune with his self-help manuals; mother Cristina mostly looks after the career of their son Benjie, 13, a child star. One of Stafford's clients, Havana, is an actress who dreams of shooting a remake of the movie that made her mother, Clarice, a star in the 60s. Clarice is dead now and visions of her come to haunt Havana at night... Adding to the toxic mix, Benjie has just come off a rehab program he joined when he was 9 and his sister, Agatha, has recently been released from a sanatorium where she was treated for criminal pyromania and befriended a limo driver Jerome who is also an aspiring actor.Written by
When Jerome is driving Havana, they are in a long wheelbase 'L' version of Lincoln Town Car, when they've arrived at her house and are having sex in the back, they are in a standard wheelbase version (it has a shorter quarter glass section in the rear door window). See more »
You would think that the soap operatic sentiments (incest, famous mothers, mysterious personal assistants, haughty child stars, and more) of Maps to the Stars would give it an enjoyably melodramatic edge, but instead of being an absurdly funny Hollywood satire, it mopes along with writhing cynicism until characters begin to set themselves on fire and get bludgeoned to death. The characters are nasty, the story lines are nasty, and so are the expensive furnishings; you probably haven't seen a Tinsel Town film this contemptuous, but you certainly have had better times at the movies before. The cynicism of Maps to the Stars is notable, but it becomes so increasingly dark that it goes from bracingly edgy to staunchly depressing. You wouldn't expect anything different from the macabre adoring David Cronenberg, but there might be a part of you that wishes we were lurking in the shadow of the soul sister of The Player instead of Debbie Downer's.
David Lynch got his kicks destroying the lives of the characters Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring played in Mulholland Dr., and Cronenberg has no trouble poisoning the wells the people in Maps to the Stars drink from. The Weiss family, who mirror the shameful dysfunction of the Spears' or the Lohan's, have slithered their way into Hollywood, but the scraggly hole they snuck in through is rapidly closing. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) makes a living as a famed television psychiatrist with a starry clientèle, while his 13-year son (Evan Bird) is a successful child actor who headlines a shitty franchise when he's not residing in rehab. Christina, mother to Benjie and wife to Stafford, acts as her son's agent, clinging to his fame as she tries to find meaning in her empty, sad life.
Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), one of Stafford's many patients, is an aging, irrelevant actress whose entire career has been overshadowed by her legendary mother (Sarah Gadon), who prematurely died in a house fire in the 1970s. Making her way into town is the enigmatic Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), a young woman with troubling burns on the side of her body; she finds a job as Havana's personal assistant, but her dangerous connection with the Weiss family leaves her slightly cursed.
If I've explained the plot well (and I probably haven't), then Maps to the Stars might sound enticing, carrying the same self-awareness of Twin Peaks while retaining the screeching satire of Sunset Boulevard. Wrong and wrong. I desperately wanted to like Maps to the Stars, (Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska are certainly two of Hollywood's most talented actresses and Cronenberg is a consistently interesting director), but it's much too unlikable to be anything other than dreary. The humor is sharp, but when humor is also underlined in a pen based in gloominess, it's hard to do anything other than remained sickened. The blame can't be placed on Cronenberg — his claustrophobic, fearlessly ghoulish filmmaking style is as fresh as ever — but on Wagner, whose screenplay wants to be sardonic but eventually runs out of ideas. The ending, which is essentially a series of disturbing character offings, seems like an act of haste instead of a necessity.
But if Maps to the Stars isn't as delicious as I wish it was, it never stops being watchable, in part to the cast (a round-table of fantastic performances) and in part to Cronenberg's unwaveringly creepy handling of it all. It isn't necessarily a horror film, but there's always a part of us that twitches in fear that something bad will happen. Bad stuff unavoidably does happen; I just wish the negativity was more creative. But if the woods are lovely, dark, and deep and you've got promises to maintain your derisive mood, Maps to the Stars might contain just enough pessimism to toot your raincloud drenched horn.
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