Tuesday 26 September 2017

Maps to the Stars - 'a twisted psychosexual plot with bizarre twists and mindgames aplenty. Hurrah!'

Mia Wasikowska and Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars
Mia Wasikowska and Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars

George Byrne

Drama. Starring Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Evan Bird, Sarah Gadon, Carrie Fisher. Directed by David Cronenberg. Cert 18

****

With 2012’s Cosmopolis David Cronenberg disappeared up his backside somewhat, using the slight story of Robert Pattinson’s jaded financier travelling around Manhattan in a limousine to make a comment on (I think) the morality, or lack thereof, of corporate culture but he’s back on much more familiar territory here. Which, of course, means a twisted psychosexual plot with bizarre twists and mindgames aplenty. Hurrah!

Hollywood, with all its surface chumminess and lingering, murderous hatreds, provides an ideal backdrop for Bruce Wagner’s scabrous screenplay, and Cronenberg tackles the subject with an almost gleeful relish.

In what initially appear to be separate story strands we have the burns-scarred Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) arriving in Hollywood on a bus and being picked up by limo driver and aspiring actor Jerome (Robert Pattinson,

in a neat nod to his last collaboration with the director) before availing of a Twitter friendship with Carrie Fisher and landing a job as a PA to fading actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore).

In a career-best performance from Moore, we learn that Havana is desperately trying to land the lead role in a remake of a movie which starred her late mother (Sarah Gadon) who, to add spice to the mix, appears at various junctures to berate Havana for her messed-up life and to remind her that she’ll never be the actress she was.

We discover the complexities of Havana’s life as she receives massages from self-help guru and bona fide Bengal Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), himself in a troubled marriage to the neurotic Cristina (Olivia Williams), who acts as manager to the obnoxious Benjie (Evan Bird), their 13 year-old son who’s the star of a profitable franchise and already familiar with what the inside of expensive rehab facilities look like.

READ: The Film Show: George Byrne has the lowdown on 'The Equalizer' and 'Maps to the Stars'

Yep, there’s a fair bit going on here alright but to reveal much more would be a tad unfair, given that some of the characters’ backstories and motivations do drift into ‘Ah, Lads’  terrain on occasion. That said, the performances are excellent, with Julianne Moore fully deserving her Best Actress gong at Cannes for her portrayal of a disturbed, insecure but utterly ruthless schemer.

Mia Wasikowska, too, is outstanding, lulling the viewer into sympathetic mode until various layers peel away and we see Agatha for a completely different character than we first thought.

Robert Pattinson is clearly relishing putting the Twilight franchise ever further in his career’s rear-view mirror, but even when you think his Jerome is just about the only vaguely moral person in this film’s twisted universe there comes a twist which throws you completely off, as the script essentially points out that Hollywood is a corrupt and corrupting place where no real human values apply. Certainly, that message can be delivered in a somewhat heavy-handed manner at times but this is still a gloriously salacious slice of adult entertainment.

Herald

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