DVD Review: Maps to the Stars

MapsDVDSTUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: David Cronenberg | CAST: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Evan Bird, Sarah Gadon
RELEASE DATE: 4/14/15 | PRICE: DVD $19.98, Blu-ray $26.98
BONUSES: none
SPECS: R | 111 min. | Drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | French, Spanish and English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video | Overall

 

A character driven, darkly comic drama—or maybe make that a melodramatic satire—Maps to the Stars is the latest from provocateur David Cronenberg (ScannersA Dangerous Method) . This time around, Cronenberg collaborates with the bitingly nasty writer Bruce Wagner and together, the filmmaker and the screenwriter take no prisoners as they take on life in Hollywood and all the dysfunctions that go along with it.

Julianne Moore lets it out in Maps to the Stars.

Julianne Moore lets it out in Maps to the Stars.

The movie follows a just-off-the-bus Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska, Lawless), a mysterious young woman covered with burn marks, who’s looking to reconnect with her estranged family, which includes her Justin Beiber-esque actor brother Benjie (Evan Bird, TV’s The Killing), her TV shrink scamming father Stafford (John Cusack, Being John Malkovich) and her mother Christina (Olivia Williams, Sabotage), who manages Benjie’s career when she’s not kissing her ass. Having become “friends” with Carrie Fisher on Twitter, Agatha manages to wangle a job working for fading actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore, Don Jon). As Havana’s personal assistant (or “chore whore” as she refers to it), it’s Agatha’s job to bounce around town to do Havana’s bidding, while Havana maneuvers to get cast in a high-profile remake in the same role that won her late mother an Academy Award years earlier. Weaving in and out of this extended family—one with a deep, dark secret—is a limo driver named Jerome (Robert Pattinson, Cosmopolis), a relatively grounded guy who imagines a screenplay in the life of everyone who jumps into his car. Oh, also weaving about are a couple of portentous ghosts, which isn’t surprising as Hollywood loves a ghost story.

Cronenberg’s trademark controlled camerawork and impeccable compositions coolly serve up razor-sharp view of the fear that permeates Hollywood—fear of aging, fear of ugliness, fear of losing relevance…fear of not winning, which in Hollywood, we’re led to believe, means you’re a loser.

The story and themes are not for all tastes—particularly the family’s dark secret and the film’s climax—but the performances are top notch and can be heartily digested by all. As the uncomfortably distressed Havana, Julianne Moore won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival. She really is outstanding—farting scene and all—and her victory served as a drum role for Oscar win for Still Alice a year later.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.