Maps to the Stars (2014) Directed by David Cronenberg


Astrid:
There is a real movie draught in our house. Mainly, because when evening comes we usually feel like watching something (a series) alone – comforts and personal pleasure first. The personal computer has lead to personal choices and increasing inability to share this viewing. On Mondays we watch the latest Game of Thrones together, but that's not enough to keep this here blog alive. It's a sad state and one which we are trying to fix as we are missing each other's company. There's something great about watching a film together, talking about it, snuggling, sharing. But good things are coming, I promise you. Nick and I have gotten our hands dirty with a new large scale project. You'll hear about it soon.

Mia Wasikowska in Maps to the Stars
Maps to the Stars was a surprise to me. I thoroughly enjoyed it like I used to enjoy narratives of dysfunction and glittering pain decades ago. This is an uncomfortably sarcastic, ironic, cruel and sadistic movie. Like so many other films directed by David Cronenberg. This time, I was totally in the right frame of mind for it. And don't be alarmed, it is also funny, even light and comic at times.
Maps to the Stars combines family drama with satire about Hollywood in a way that doesn't compromise either agenda but blends them into a crazy, daring ride. Julianne Moore does some crying, farting, group sex and portrays her fantastic capability for nervousness. She plays an actress haunted by her mother and her insatiable hunger for fame and love. It's kind of not like the roles Julianne Moore usually gets, which is fun. Of course her own persona as a stylish super successful Hollywood star backlights her performance and frames things oddly. John Cusack is also uncharacteristically cast and he too plays things well.

Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska in Maps to the Stars
The stars of this satire are the children: Mia Wasikowska and Evan Bird. They do much of the satirizing of Hollywood, but more than that they bring to the fore the pain and anguish their parent's secrets have caused them. They react. Hints of Romeo and Juliette, horror stuff I never wanna watch again and the scent of burning fire and drying blood linger in my mind long after the film ends.
The lack of morals these characters convey ring both true and false. But this is not a film about reality. It keeps moving, still retaining an admirable inner peace and structure.

Nick:
Life has had its series of niggly consequences recently. People have invaded my space with an unbelievable capacity to annoy me. Obviously, I've managed to align some people's behaviour to mental illness, but then this doesn't explain why a lot of people's actions are a choice and not a necessity. In short, my tolerance levels have worn thin. In the past I may have just pleasantly smiled and headed for the nearest exit after being subjected to arshole rheotric – now I'm merely trying to eradicate cuntish behaviour towards me, flushing it down the cistern of life. Having turned 50 recently, that old cliché 'life's too short' has never felt more apt. David Cronenberg continues to impress with his ability to shine a light on his perceived paragons of cuntish behaviour and bring those culprits to the screen so we can laugh at them and generally feel superior. I needed to watch a film like Maps To The Stars to contextualize my current predicament. 

Julianne Moore as fading actress Havana Segrand
Maps To the Stars is black comedy as much as it is insider expose thanks to Bruce Wagner's shrewd and knowing screenplay. A collection of dysfunctional human beings hedging their bets in the hurly burly world of Hollywood. It sounds familiar but Cronenberg brings his creepy perspective to the picture. These Hollywood Hills have ears and eyes and all kinds of fucked up grievances and familial shames. Cronenberg carefully weaves a tale that must in some ways feel familiar to him – the clues are in his portrayal of types he clearly feels disdain for. And who can blame him? These people are tragically lost. Child stars who treat everyone like shit, therapists who treat everyone like shit, has-been-actors who treat everyone like shit. Even the chauffeur lets us down in the end. This is a dark affair from Cronenberg, and rather like Eastwood, he knows how to bring the most impact home with the occasional violence that litters the screen – disturbing us and shaking our bones.

Evan Bird as child star Benjie revels in the dark stuff
Acting honors are all high. Maps To The Stars puts a certain vulnerable strain on these actors. From Julianne Moore's spoilt has-been actress trying to shit, to John Cusack's beyond greedy therapist – on screen masturbation almost seems mild amongst the many trials and low deeds these characters go through. And at the base is the merry-go-round of the Movie Industry, a moral free place where anything goes as long as it gets me from A to B. It's brutal. Cronenberg's gift is to make us flinch at the sickness of it all, to out-gross us with an 'honest' depiction of the ultimate grossness. Maps to the Stars portrays something we already knew but didn't want to admit to ourselves: decadent badness that we lap up at the cinema multiplexes, 'superstar' conduct that we justify by the 'entertainment' it brings. We are all complicit in this cesspool. Cronenberg's movie is the timely reminder. 

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