Canadian stalwart David Cronenberg, who also happens to be one the world’s finest and most consistent filmmakers working today, has dealt with plenty of psychos in his entire career and his latest Maps to the Stars occupies a special place in his oeuvre mainly because it’s about the crazy motherfuckers that populate the industry he’s in. It’s a gloriously fucked-up movie about the fucked up movie tinseltown known to the world, easily trumping two of his previous films, the psychoanalytical period drama A Dangerous Method and the socio-political anti-thriller Cosmopolis. Suffice to say, this has more scathing bite and resonance compared to his previous movies.
Here, Cronenberg has constructed a dark avenue close to Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard via David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive with plenty of head-fuckery rare in modern satires about Hollywood. He sticks it close to the jugular, portraying desperate, delusional ageing movie stars rubbing elbows with paranoid schizophrenics, drug-addled child stars, passive-aggressive stage parents, throwing in ghosts, threesomes and incest into the mix that’s perhaps more Lynchian than what Lynch produce these days, which is close to none. Maps is a vitriolic work that peels all the superficial gloss of Hollywood and reveal its rotten, denigrated skin that lies underneath. To simply put, it’s a massive middle finger to the industry that festers with corruption and dark secrets in a town where a quick fuck can become your ticket to a part.
The tangle of narrative here leads closer to hell than the cosmic levels the title suggests, where Julianne Moore’s fast-fading star Havana Segrand (brilliantly and hysterically chewing every scene she’s in), the epitome of La La Land moral bankruptcy, is hellbent in winning a part that potentially leads to her comeback, while Mia Wasikowska’s enigmatic gloved personal assistant Agatha harbours a black-as-tar past that will tarnish anyone who comes close to her. And further defiling the already decaying frame is the potty-mouthed Justin Bieber-type Benjie Weiss, who’s a piece of work driven by corrupted ego and stark vanity. There isn’t a moment whenever Benjie is on screen I found difficult to resist the urge of punching the little cunt on the face – but that’s a testament to Evan Bird’s superb acting work there. All are perfectly cast, including Robert Pattinson’s morally dubious chauffeur-cum-wannabe-actor and Benjie’s malignant parents played by Olivia Williams and John Cusack, but the real standout is Wasikowska – a cunning choice of casting, remarkably extending his excellent work in Park Chan-wook’s Stoker. Her Agatha is the dark soul of Hollywood, initially well-meant yet all-too-quickly pulled into the maelstrom of moral corruption and depravity that lurks beneath the sparkling veneer of celebrity life.