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TIFF 2014 Review: Maps to the Stars

Over the past few years, offerings from David Cronenberg have been a little disappointing. Unfortunately, his latest film Maps to the Stars has not broken his string of subpar films, but that’s not to say that it isn’t one of his most entertaining films in years.

In Maps to the Stars, Cronenberg attempts to make a clever satire about Hollywood and celebrity. While he’s clearly reaching for something cerebral, the result ends up a little obvious and at times stupid. This movie literally has a five-minute scene of a constipated Julianne Moore sitting on a toilet; and it’s not pretty.

Moore plays middle-aged movie star Havana Segrand. Havana is campaigning to get the role in a remake of the film that made her deceased mother (Sarah Gadon), famous. Through connections with Carrie Fisher (playing herself), Havana hires Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) to be her “chore-whore”. Meanwhile, the Weiss family is struggling with their Bieber-esque son Benjie (Evan Bird). Christina (Olivia Williams) is doing her best to secure her son’s role in the sequel to the film that made him famous, but his bad reputation isn’t helping. The father, Stafford (John Cusack), is a therapist/masseur who counts Havana among his many celebrity clients.

From Paul Thomas Anderson, to Chuck Lorre, to a certain producer only referred to only as “Harvey”, no one is safe from being name-dropped in Maps to the Stars. There is a whole lot going on in Maps; some of it works, some of it doesn’t. Cronenberg staple, Gadon is great but her side story of a ghost haunting her troubled daughter feels out of place. Perhaps the most daring thing about the film is not Cronenberg’s work, but Julianne Moore’s. Moore hasn’t had a role this unhinged in years.

Although the comedy is excellent and dark as ever, the film doesn’t really work as a drama. Maps to the Stars doesn’t know what it wants to be: ghost story, dark comedy, Hollywood satire, or farce. While the Map never actually goes anywhere, it’s certainly a fun ride.

[star v=35]

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.