Maps to the Stars

Year: 2014
Production Co: Prospero Pictures
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Bruce Wagner
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Sarah Gadon, Olivia Williams, Robert Pattinson, Evan Bird

If you were never a fan of Cronenberg because of his horror movie/body morphism stylings, Maps to the Stars might be good news for you as he's apparently left most of it behind.

We say most of it because there is a character who's suffered terrible burns to her body. As Agatha, Mia Wasikowska has been released from an asylum after a criminal act and has come to Hollywood to reconnect with family she's fallen out of touch with.

She's the straight man foil through which we meet a cast of characters that are both familiar from a hundred Hollywood satires and better fleshed out than you've seen them in years.

Robert Pattinson is the limo driver Agatha befriends and eventually makes the strongest connection with of anyone. There's also a supremely self-involved child actor who's as venomous and entitled as any grown up Hollywood star and a quack psychotherapist (John Cusack) who has the elite of Hollywood seduced with his self-help/yoga claptrap.

But Julianne Moore takes the cake as fading actress Havana, obsessed with playing the part her starlet mother did in the forthcoming remake. As deluded and selfish as she is insecure, Havana is a Hollywood parody for the ages, and Moore lights up the screen every time she appears with her veiled well wishes to colleagues and grasping desperation in private.

They're all connected to Agatha in a way that takes its time unfolding, and even when you learn the truth about the violent and destructive act that took place in her past, it turns she still might be the most stable person in the whole company.

It's rarely laugh out loud funny and is actually set up a bit like a horror movie or thriller. One of the most interesting reviews online realised with sharp insight that it really does become what it sets out to skewer – with it's melodramatic backstory it's every bit a Hollywood movie.

Not all of it hangs together perfectly well and an equal amount doesn't make sense as the stuff that does, as if there were a few edits and Cronenberg hadn't decided which strand to concentrate most on by the time he'd finished shooting it.

Without Moore it also would have been far more bland and dour. Even when playing an enormous, attention-sucking id she's one of the most watchable actresses working today.

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