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Maps to the Stars (2014)

by on 2014/11/27

Maps to the Stars (2014)
“For a disfigured schizophrenic, you’ve got this town pretty wired.”

* * * *

There’s a facetious reason to see David Cronenberg‘s latest film, Maps to the Stars: Julianne Moore in various states of indecent exposure.

Taken less cynically, I don’t just mean “appearing without clothes”. The bravery she demonstrates in portraying a desperate has-been put me in mind of Sunset Boulevard. She isn’t necessarily the central figure, though, so much as a major player among an ensemble of egocentrics.

The closest thing to a “hero” here — perhaps I should say protagonist — is Mia Wasikowska as Agatha. To describe her character, however, would defuse the punch of discovery, so I’ll simply list her among the other actors, which include Evan Bird, John Cusack, Sarah Gadon (A Dangerous Method), Robert Pattinson (Twilight), Olivia Williams, and a cameo by Star Wars‘ Carrie Fisher.

In addition to Sunset Boulevard, I also thought of David Lynch, of Maps being a slightly less surreal Mulholland Drive. There were times when I suspected that the story was a dream, a delusion, or nonlinear, cutting across time. Some accounts did not line up, like the Joker’s origin in The Dark Knight, a complication woven in by mental illness.

Eventually, however, the scattered fragments come together, uniting the disparate characters as related by blood and/or circumstance, into a domino chain of climactic violence. Carrie Fisher’s role notwithstanding, nobody here is pure, and watching them clash and collide is a visceral experience. Alone or apart, they’re all destructive, corrupt, or at least off the rails.

In my notes I jotted down it’s like watching grown adults behave like Millennials but, in retrospect, perhaps I had it backward. We’re seeing the so-called Hollywood royals — whether real or fictional — behaving in a way that influences an impressionable audience.

Ultimately I couldn’t help feeling, however, these lives of “luxury” were flawed. They came at such an absurdly high cost, they ceased to be enviable, however entertaining it was to watch them all fall down.

Down like the undies of Julianne Moore, you could say.

* * * *

Rated 18A

112 minutes

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