In the hills of Hollywood, aging actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) is preparing to audition for the same part her mother (Sarah Gadon) once played, before burning alive. Turning to Dr. Weiss (John Cusack) for psychiatric help, Havana attempts to purge memories of her mother. When she gets a new helper, Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) and a new driver, Jerome (Robert Pattinson), things start getting weird.
Maps to the Stars has had a wonky release schedule, with certain screenings in 2014 making it eligible for Julianne Moore to be nominated for a Golden Globe because of it. Doesn’t exactly seem fair, nor did it make sense, but it happened and now people can see what all the hype was about. Unfortunately, that hype dies down real quick in this satirical film about Hollywood life, as the writing and acting does the film a disservice. It’s one thing to be satirical, but this film almost comes off as one big joke and it wasn’t all that enjoyable to watch.
Mia Wasikowska, an actress who’s been doing tremendous work for years now, plays a pivotal part in this film, despite it being a wacky one. She’s brings all her quirkiness and a dark presence to her character, making her decisions and motives all the more interesting. She and the quiet Robert Pattinson have an odd dynamic to their “relationship” which makes watching them all the more interesting. There are even some beautiful moments between the two that standout in a film that’s constantly dragging its characters down.
Julianne Moore just won the Academy Award for Still Alice, a film in which she has Alzheimers and shows her ability to struggle and emote. Here, she screams, cries, and goes absolutely crazy and while it’s fine for a while, it does get to a point where it becomes overbearing. Her performance becomes that of someone really trying to show their range and how well they can perform with different emotions and it became obnoxious. Now, it may not be that she’s trying to show off, but that’s certainly how it appeared. She grabs your interest initially, but quickly loses it as she loses her mind.
John Cusack’s role in the film can be boiled down to his methods of forgetting the past by doing odd stretches while half-naked. He’s excitable about most things and has random fits of anger, before calming down and having the attention shifted to Evan Bird, our 14-year-old who acts like no kid ever. He swears, alleges to having sex, does drugs, and is a total asshole to everyone because he feels entitled. His character is a perfect satire at first, but he becomes as obnoxious as Justin Bieber after a while and you just want him to leave. You can’t forget Olivia Williams because… Oh? Wait… You can, because she isn’t given anything to do.
Director David Cronenberg, notable for such works as A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, and The Fly, sees the world in a unique way. Maps to the Stars should and does work in pieces, because there are certainly many Hollywood type who get absorbed in the lifestyle. The problem is, Cronenberg just doesn’t know when to quit. He amplifies the satire and creates unrealistic characters that are unlikable and goofy. Not to mention the goofy VFX in the film that are also laughably bad. His initial intentions are good, but he can’t make the best use of them because he shoots himself in the foot.
Maps to the Stars is mildly enjoyable for a few short moments, but it gets caught up in trying to be too over-the-top. The praise that Julianne Moore has received for this film befuddles me, because she’s really not that great… Like, at all. She’s always either crying, or yelling and it’s just not enjoyable to watch. Wasikowska and Pattinson save the film from being a total flop, but even their characters get a bit absurd.
Maps to the Stars Trailer