DIR: David Cronenberg • WRI: Bruce Wagner • PRO: Saïd Ben Saïd, Martin Katz, Michel Merkt • DOP: Peter Suschitzky • ED: Ronald Sanders • DES: Carol Spier • MUS: Howard Shore • CAST: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson
David Cronenberg has built his career on shock, but what happens when he chooses a subject that not only is unable to shock audiences, but is also so mundane that it is available to us through a simple finger tip to our phones? The subject matter of which I speak is the sordid social fabric of Tinseltown, Hollywood, U.S.A., which Cronenberg and screenwriter Bruce Wagner tackle in Maps to the Stars.
Well, they don’t exactly tackle this notion of Hollywood lifestyle as much as they give us a glimpse of what we already know via the constant bombardment of social media and sleaze journalism. Maps delves into the nooks and crannies of Hollywood and some of its unsavory characters. A society where status, age and looks are constantly scrutinized, where movie stars refer to their maids as “chore whores” and everybody hides under a mound of drugs.
Yes, it does sound like a delightful scandalous romp of excess and maniacal nihilism, and it possibly could have been some odd twenty years ago, however, this generation’s savvy cynicism preempts this sort of behavior. We are living in an age, where celebrities’ personal lives are on display 24/7 for the universe to criticize. The Justin Biebers, Lindsay Lohan’s and Kanye Kardashian’s of this world have already been crucified on a daily basis. With all this in mind, one might find Maps to the Stars a tad stale and its characters are all too easy to hate. The audience should have to work and debate in a satire of this magnitude, not enter the theatre knowing whom the scumbag is then leaving with the same opinion in tact.
However, Maps to the Stars is not your regular classical narrative structure. It’s a surreal feature that attempts to portray the nightmare disguised by the glitz and glamour of the business. The question isn’t “is it surreal?” The question is “is it surreal enough?”. We get the sense that Maps to the Stars doesn’t quite know what it is. It possesses a strong sense of realism through its great performances and violence, but it throws in a ghost or two to hint a supernatural element. The most stylistic audacious movie of this kind of genre was David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, which was complete other world of mind-fuckery in itself. At the end of Mulholland Drive you couldn’t fathom what the hell actually happened, but you enjoyed the ride nonetheless. However, with Maps to the Stars you might not have entirely understood what went on, but you didn’t really care either.
Some may argue that with today’s online social paparazzi, a movie like this may seem redundant. It’s true that our post modern, nonchalant barriers are hard to penetrate, but maybe if we are shown the flipside of the coin, a celebrity superstar’s POV of the TMZ parasites and abuse from trolls hiding behind the comfort of their computer screens. We’re not good; we just know how to hide.
Cronenberg’s incredible vision and creativity is on a higher plateau than this. His gift has always been producing original and wild fictional worlds that no one but he could invent. With Maps to the Stars he has given us a film we can just swipe to the side like another tabloid story hurdling down the endless information highway.
18 (See IFCO for details)
Maps to the Stars is released 26th September 2014