Maps to the Stars
David Cronenberg's satirical misfire stars a nevertheless impressive Julianne Moore
David Cronenberg arrives about 20 years too late to the party with Maps to the Stars, a strained satire of Tinseltown neuroses that feels surprisingly old hat. Screenwriter Bruce Wagner's slice of Hollywood gothic takes lazy pot shots at easy targets from Harvey Weinstein to Scientology and self-help gurus, and never quite escapes the long shadows of more vivid movie-town nightmares like Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard or David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.
Wagner's screenplay has clear affinities with The Player as it mercilessly lampoons the worst excesses of celebrity culture and the ruthless pursuit of fame. Add to that overlapping tales of dysfunctional, destructive families and the inescapable ghosts of a troubled past and the stage is set for a heady mix of caustic commentary and torrid drama that never quite delivers.
Scarred, mystery girl Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) arrives in Hollywood having already established a Twitter friendship with Carrie Fisher (playing herself). She is soon hired as the latest in a long line of personal assistants to aging diva Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore). Agatha has a tragic, tangled history that gives her a connection to the movie capital, while her hideously bratty actor brother Benjie (Evan Bird) is a hot teen idol thanks to the popularity of an all-too-plausible crowd-pleaser called Bad Babysitter.
The starry ensemble relish the chance to sink their teeth into a gallery of extreme characters with Olivia Williams tearing into the role of Benjie's fiercely controlling mother Christina, and Moore as fearless as she was in Short Cuts as the Norma Desmond of the YouTube generation. The dialogue bites and scratches and there is the sting of something like the truth in certain situations, but as the clunky plot laboriously joins the dots towards a melodramatic finale it all feels desperately obvious and not a little silly.
General release from Fri 26 Sep.