Maps to the Stars tells the story of “B actress” progeny Havana Segrand, played by Julianne Moore, and the narcissistic world around her. Star Wars veteran Carrie Fisher introduces Segrand to teenage burn victim Agatha Weiss, played by Mia Wasikowska, to act as a type of personal assistant – a go-fer of medication, clothes, and other tasks the deluded Segrand likely feels beneath her. With Agatha comes her estranged family – brother Benjie (Evan Bird) and parents Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) and Cristina (Olivia Williams). Together they become a chaotic cocktail of overwhelming success and suffocation under the shadow of family.
Early buzz at the Cannes Film Festival for David Cronenberg’s film Maps to the Stars was mixed – some though it provoking while others felt it painted Hollywood unjustly. I felt provoked as if I was watching the struggle of people taking control by any means necessary. Agatha, after having been released from her court ordered psychiatric hold from the fire she set so long ago, takes charge of her life in returning to her home – now nothing more than concrete slabs in the hills. No stranger to darker roles Wasikowska brings her macabre performance to the screen leaving an imprint on the viewer – not unlike her work in Stoker.
Segrand calls upon old friends and lovers to secure the roll her mother once played in what most consider an unforgettable film. So obsessed with playing her mother she will do anything to get it, uncomfortable three-somes included, only to lose to the next up-and-coming thing. Moore, gracefully showcasing herself from big budget films like the Hunger Games franchise to smaller fare like What Maise Knew and her recent Oscar win for Still Alice took home the award for Best Actress at the Oscars and Cannes 2014 for her performance. When you see it, you can understand why. Moore broods and begs and whines her way through the film. No longer the elegant woman we often come to see – no, we’re given the haggard child of Hollywood, so obsessed with herself and what others think of her that there’s nothing left for humility, love or talent.
Benji, Agatha’s sister, is the overpaid indulgent child star fawned over by his doting mother. We first see him at the hospital attempting to schmooze with a little girl dying of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His visit is only to be used to repair his image after his recent trip to rehab at the tender age of 13. The little girl dies shortly after, only to torment Benji through visions in his daily life. Needing only be present, she torments him to violence and regression back into the drug addled ways of his adolescence.
Everyone is looking for something. Everyone is looking for control. Despite having the same goal everyone acts independent of the forces around them, inflicting their own torment in hopes to come out on top. Startling and surprising, Maps to the Stars will leave you shocked and disquieted by the honest and senseless actions of behind the scenes Hollywood. “Maps to the Stars” is available in limited release this Friday, February 27th.