Maps to the Stars aligns the Hollywood Walk of Fame in an inconsistent twisted nightmare. Los Angeles. Hollywood. Tinseltown. The Dream Factory. A glittering borough where fame, fortune and fashion take hold of the very individuals who choose to pursue. Hosting a mechanical movie industry that chews up aspirational souls and spits out vile vehemence, corrupted by box office numbers and impassioned by wealth. Entertainment, amalgamated through fabricated self-important worlds, refuses to show consideration for its parasitical egotists, fuelling their lustful power evermore.
A once famous yet rapidly fading actress, isolated, ambushed by the sinister shadows of her legendary movie-star mother. Taggart’s ghoulish memory haunting Segrand’s abused mentality, unable to remove herself from comparisons. A thirteen year-old controversial sensation, overwhelmed with money and being taken advantage of by his equally deranged parents whom manage him. Substance and alcohol abuse already fulfilling the inevitable rehabilitation tick box, likening the character to various real child stars. His estranged sister however, a pyromaniac schizophrenic, sympathetically yearning to achieve amends with her family whom rejected her, now working as the personal assistant for Segrand. Encompassing the dangers of impressionable Hollywood full circle.
Cronenberg’s twisted fantasy almost seems too real, satirising Western culture and their demand for entertainment. Including the traditions of award ceremonies and wealthy lifestyles enhancing the superficiality of Tinseltown regulars, where materialistic possessions overcome familial foundations. It’s a tantalising drama that nearly fully realises the unearthly world Wagner set out to portray, with much gratitude to his insightful screenplay. A script that presents the Hollywood entertainment industry as an ominous vision through spirituality. The scenes involving apparitions haunting the famed stars support the supernatural torment Wagner insisted upon, supplying a refreshing perspective. The characters exploiting the most selfish attributes possible, varnished with a thin layer of sympathy to allow emotional connections. For the most part, they are incredibly detestable, but that’s the purpose of Maps to the Stars. To illustrate the allurement and corruptible nature of Hollywood.
Moore’s performance accentuating that notion with her character. She threw herself into this role, offering a modernised version of ‘Sunset Boulevard’s’ Norma Desmond. The pretentious screams, the exaggerative tantrums and the sudden manipulative mood shifts epitomising the negative connotations that her work implores. The remaining cast members were functional, but not in the same league as Moore. Wasikowska offered minimal dimensionality to her character’s psychological detriments. Pattinson was underused in a redundant role. Cusack and Williams rarely making an impression. Then there’s Bird in his second feature and, undoubtedly, required more polishing with his line delivery.
Despite Cronenberg’s clinical direction throughout, he loses all focus in the crumbling final act. Unnecessary deaths were plaguing the mansions of Hollywood, with one individual setting themselves on terribly visualised flames (seriously, who produced those effects? Terrible!). The subtle psychological undertone rampantly increased to a colossal volume and essentially crumbled the succinct dramatic thrills that preceded the “shocking” end result. Several character actions didn’t make any sense whatsoever. The entire self-destructive theme was shoved in the viewer’s face, whom most likely were eye-rolling at that moment anyway. And, most importantly, the conclusion never satisfied. It was an incredibly ineffective method in surmising a satire on Hollywood. Frustrating!
Cronenberg was able to infiltrate the barrier of superficiality that shrouded its characters. Somehow creating human emotional output for these inhumane beasts of industrial produce. Yet he fell at the last hurdle. Reducing a sprawling satire to a minuscule disposable thriller with limited psychological perception. Whilst still enjoyable, it could’ve been a shining star amongst the midnight sky of dramas. Oh, and an extra point for Carrie Fisher’s cameo.