Monthly Archives: February 2015

Film Review: Maps To The Stars

Film Review: Maps To The Stars

Maps To The Stars is an intriguing title. It conjures up the “Movie Star Maps” (reputed to be wildly inaccurate) sold to tourists in Hollywood. On the other hand, it could mean the trail to a celestial object. This is David Cronenberg directing a script by Bruce Wagner, so flip a coin.

They throw in an early reference to the cosmos. Upon arriving in LA, Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska) remarks that she’s from Jupiter. That’s the city in Florida. Agatha has scars on her face and body-she wears gloves that cover her arms to the elbow. She takes copious amounts of medication. At this stage, you can’t decide whether to pity her or call 911.

Maps to the Stars Mia & JulianneIt turns out Agatha is a Twitter acquaintance of Carrie Fisher. The connection lands her a job as the personal assistant- a.k.a. chore whore-of actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore, in a bravura performance).

Havana is middle-aged but still troubled by the abuse she suffered from her deceased mother, actress Clarice Taggart (Sarah Gadon). Now the studio wants to remake one of Clarice’s successes, Stolen Waters, and Havana desperately wants to star in it. To deal with her issues, Havana sees TV psychologist Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack).

Stafford is Agatha’s father, but he doesn’t want any contact with her. Neither does her mother (Olivia Williams). Both of them are intent on keeping her away from her little brother, teen idol and psycho-brat Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird).

Ghosts, incest, and flames are all recurring elements in this story, which sprawls across the Hollywood hills, leaping subplots in a single bound. There’s a lot of snarky in-talk, some of it perilously close to the expiration date, most of it venomously clever.

Cronenberg and Wagner are talents individually; together, they are a diabolical force of nature. Moore is the standout among the actors, though Wasikowska and Bird are extremely good in their roles. All elements of this film combine to create the Hollywood that the far right always suspected lay below the surface.Maps to the Stars John and Julianne

I have just one major problem with this film-it always seems to be on the verge of sharing revelations about Hollywood, but never tells anything new. In fairness, this project took a long time to complete. Cronenberg says the original script was written twenty years ago, and it’s taken until now to get it filmed.

In the interim, we’ve had Altman’s The Player, HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show and Entourage, Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, and the Internet everywhere you look. There’s no doubt in my mind that Maps to The Stars appeared beyond cutting-edge twenty years ago. Unfortunately, its type of knowing-insider viewpoint gets stale in a hurry.

The material might have been better served if Cronenberg and Wagner had left the story in its original timeframe. Updating material is a tricky business. Stories tend to keep the zeitgeist from the time of their creation, no matter how skillful the revisions.

Good as it is, Maps to the Stars often comes off like a well-meaning relative, warning you against doing things that you’ve already tried.

Theme: Hollywood on Hollywood

Related Posts: Film Appreciation: The Player http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-appreciation-the-player/

Hollywood on Hollywood: List for Week Ending Mar. 1, 2015 http://www.thinkingcinema.com/hollywood-on-hollywood-list-for-week-ending-mar-1-2015/

Film Appreciation: The Player

Film Appreciation: The Player

Robert Altman’s film The Player is probably the gentlest satire ever written about Hollywood. But don’t worry that Altman has lost his edge. He pokes considerable fun at American filmmaking, primarily by depicting American filmmaking. Much of the action takes place at a fictitious Hollywood studio with the slogan “Movies- now more than ever”. TheContinue Reading

Film Appreciation: Kramer vs. Kramer

Film Appreciation: Kramer vs. Kramer

You don’t hear much about Kramer vs. Kramer these days. That’s amazing, given the way it started out. It was the top-grossing film for the year of its release, 1979. Besides that, it won five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Robert Benton. Dustin Hoffman plays Ted Kramer, the uber-successful advertising executive whoContinue Reading

X-odus: List for Week Ending Feb. 22, 2015

X-odus: List for Week Ending Feb. 22, 2015

This week’s list deals with people trying to free themselves from an unhappy marriage or the effects of one. This is not intended to be an all-inclusive list; reader contributions are welcome! Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Reviewed here 2/20/15)  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-review-gett-the-trial-of-viviane-amsalem/ Kramer vs Kramer (1979) (Article in Thinking Cinema 2/20/15) http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-appreciation-kramer-vs-kramer/ What Maisie Knew (2012)Continue Reading

Highlights- Week Ending Feb. 22, 2015

Highlights- Week Ending Feb. 22, 2015

    SCREENWRITING 1 DAY SEMINAR WITH YALE PROFESSOR MARC LAPADULA! THIS SATURDAY Feb. 21, 2015 ———————————————- DATE: THIS Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 —— WHAT: Screenwriting 1 Day Seminar with Yale Professor Marc Lapadula. His students have written THE HANGOVER, THE BREAK UP and more! —— CHOOSE: A.) Morning Advanced Workshop (9am to 12pm –Continue Reading

Film Review: Clouds of Sils Maria

Film Review: Clouds of Sils Maria

All too often, we treat aging like a crime. Committed by a man, it’s a charming misdemeanor. If a woman ages, it’s a first-degree felony. Nowhere are these tendencies more pronounced than in the theater. Oliver Assayas’ thought-provoking film Clouds of Sils Maria shows us, at close range, how this feels for an actress. AsContinue Reading

Film Appreciation: All About Eve

Film Appreciation: All About Eve

Simply based on a plot summary, All About Eve sounds like a soap opera. It probably would have been one in the wrong hands. Thankfully, Joseph L. Mankiewicz wrote the script and did a standout job of directing the all-star cast. The result is a witty film with comments on show business that are asContinue Reading

No Exit: List for Week Ending Feb. 15, 2015

No Exit: List for Week Ending Feb. 15, 2015

Lots of people lie about their age, but the performers in these films make it an art form. Who can blame them? There’s a lot at stake- love, financial security, or maybe a dream that’s defined them since childhood. Whatever the reason, these women have worked hard to get where they are. They won’t letContinue Reading