First Look Review: Maps to the Stars

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4 stars

After a considerable success at the 67th Cannes Festival earlier on this year, David Cronenberg’s latest creation finally lands in the UK and it doesn’t disappoint. Whilst Cosmopolis (2012) and A Dangerous Method (2011) might have felt out of harmony with Cronenberg, the author of Crash (1996), Maps to the Stars reconnects with the director’s previous work.

The synopsis tangles four different stories inherently embedded within the geographical setting of the film, Hollywood. Thirteen year-old Benjie (Evan Bird) is a worldwide film star. His Father, Sanford Weiss (John Cusack), is a very successful writer and celebrity coach. His client, Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), is an actor whose career and personal life struggle to take off. Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), a nobody who is just out of the psychiatric hospital, manages to get hired by Havana as her assistant.

The film apparently displays Hollywood’s grandeur by offering a portrayal of different stereotypical characters but once the narrative unfolds, it gets clear that Cronenberg’s exploration of the themes he tackles dramatically steps aside any first expectation. Debauchery, incest and jealousy soon infiltrate the narration, forcing the film to mutate into something uneasy to swallow, that long edges between genius cinematographic effort and off-putting mess. Maps to the Stars is one of these films that don’t qualify as a chef d’oeuvre within the first ten minutes; it asks for reflection – if not digestion – challenging its audience by offering a disturbing story that struggle to fit under any label genre.

If choosing whether to hate or love Maps to the Stars might turn out problematic, one feature of the film undeniably favours positive reviews; Julianne Moore’s performance is purely astonishing. Her character constantly juggles in between hysterical scenes and sequences which are in between comedy and drama. As an actress, she manages to give depth and coherence to her persona despite Havanah’s clear lack of psychological unity. She successfully creates a character whose two distinctive facets finds consistency and continuity whether she is behaving¬†within the Hollywoodian society or behind the scenes.

Maps to the Stars, directed by David Cronenberg, is being released in the UK on the 26th of September by Entertainment One, Certificate 18. Watch the trailer below.

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Ex-Film Editor and future ex-MA student, dissecting films since 2006.

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