Once upon a time, there was a Canadian boy called David Cronenberg – aka the King of Venereal Horror – that did some very cool films (The Fly, Videodrome). They were wicked, they had gore, they stayed in your mind way after you’ve seen them. They gave you nightmares.
One day David decided to go bold and bite the hand that feeds him, that is, the Hollywood star and studio system. Add in some satire, incest, Julianne Moore (portrayed in a less than glamorous way) and, bloody hell, Robert Pattinson as a limo driver-slash-wannabe-actor, and here it is, Maps to the Stars, that has won Moore a few awards and nominations, including the Golden Globe. You watch the film, while news about North Korea blasts out of the tv, and wonder – so what, Cronenberg? All actors are emotionally deficient, LA is a Vice Babylon where morality does not need to apply, rich families are dysfunctional, and hey, schizophrenic people do kill, listen everyone, better lock those mentally unstable people away in Florida. Commonplace, thy place is here.
When we follow Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) into Hollywood, like a storm about to explode above her parents/uncle and aunt, we have big hopes. Man, this is going to be an incisive portrait of the Studio scum. And, in a sense, it is. Hypocrisy, the shallowness of stardom, presumptuous child actors, rehab contacts, mother issues, the whole falafel. But then, there’s no redemption or conclusion. Nothing. Niente. The film is as skin-deep as its characters. Add to that some incredibly wooden performances, helped by awkward dialogues and all of it clearly edited on a banana, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what kind of film this is. The tone is all over the place, and though there are bits and pieces where you can see that our loved Cronenberg is still alive, you will need a very good pair of binoculars to spot them. To sum it up, you’ll have to endure it to delight on some of Julianne Moore’s memorable performance, but apart from that, do not expect anything above mediocre. And that includes the Z-movie style final CGI.
Maybe we’re fed up with Hollywood satires that don’t actually hit the point. Maybe we’ve seen Birdman first and can’t actually conceive a better way to criticize the star system nowadays. Truth is, at the end of everything, Maps to the Stars will hopefully be forgotten as a less perfect moment on Cronenberg’s career. Someone send him to a warmer climate to get some sense, please. Or slap him out of it, whichever is easier.