Published Oct 30, 2014Bland as they may be, the adjectives cold and cerebral are the best two to describe the late period films of David Cronenberg. Most recently, Cosmopolis was not just cold, but aesthetically frigid, not so much cerebral as snobby. Cronenberg adapting a Don DeLillo book came with such an air of erudition that critics had to pay much lip service and mince many words before finally admitting how unsatisfying it was.
Maps to the Stars is equally chilly, but it's somewhat redeemed by drawing on the full spectrum of Cronenberg's talents. A burn victim straight out of Crash, a creepy relationship between siblings, and interspersions of extreme violence as abrupt and atonal as those in A History of Violence provide a "greatest hits" feel.
The film is not just atonal in its violence. The most jarring example is a scene in which Julianne Moore sits on a toilet talking to her assistant. The accompanying sound effects would be better suited to a Wayans brothers' parody than a Cronenberg prestige picture; it's unclear if this is being played for humour or shock value.
It gets about halfway to being an effective hybrid of The Player and Mulholland Drive, but ultimately crumbles under the weight of too many disparate elements. An excellent Mia Wasikowska performance connects the various plot points. Her schizophrenic burn victim stalks her Bieber-esque brother, an equally effective Evan Bird, rarely seen without an energy drink and a dispassionate expression, excluding the odd occasion when he deems it advantageous to flash his megawatt smile. She's the assistant to a fading actress (Julianne Moore) haunted by the ghost of her mother, the daughter of John Cusack's crackpot guru and the girlfriend of a limo driver and aspiring actor played by Robert Pattinson, who only appears in a few scenes. Maps to the Stars is many things, but contrary to the advance hype, a Robert Pattinson vehicle it's not.
It's definitely an interesting experience, but despite the apparent eagerness to please, it most often doesn't.