TIFF 2014: ‘Maps to the Stars’ May Be a Bad Movie, But It’s at Least Interesting
Robert Pattinson is only kind of, sort of in David Cronenberg’s ‘Maps to the Stars’ and he’s not given a lot to do and he’s fine. If that is all you wanted to know, (a) I can respect that and (b) there’s that. He probably won’t be mentioned much from here on out. (Again, he’s fine. Totally fine. Please don’t send me hate mail because I’m on a limited data plan while I’m in Toronto and an influx of emails right now would make me sad.)
‘Maps to the Stars’ is not a very good movie – but there’s a difference between a bad movie and an interesting bad movie. ‘Maps to the Stars’ is the latter. It is certainly interesting. And it’s apparent that Toronto’s favorite son, Cronenberg, does not care too much for Hollywood -- but that’s such a tired sentiment, and beating it over our heads that everyone is terrible doesn’t really bring anything new to anything. ‘Maps to the Stars’ portrays itself as edgy and weird, but it just all feels so obvious.
‘Maps to the Stars’ has one of those narratives where we are introduced to an assortment of characters who all seem unrelated, but, as the film progresses, everyone seems to have some sort of relation to each other. Neat? OK, that’s mean. I’m getting a little too snotty. I think I just find myself doubly annoyed because I really admire Cronenberg as a filmmaker and this all just seems like such a waste of everyone’s talents (but, again, an interesting waste) and there are a lot of talents on display here.
Fire is the theme of ‘Maps to the Stars.’ Mia Wasikowska plays Agatha, a seemingly naïve noob from Florida, covered in noticeable burn marks, who is, of course, not exactly who she says she is. Agatha lands a job as the assistant to Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), a washed up actress who is desperately trying to land a role in a new movie playing her dead mother – who, yes, died in a fire. Segrand’s therapist, Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), and his wife, Cristina (Olivia Williams), have spawned a 13-year-old terror of a movie star named Benjie who headlines a movie franchise called ‘Bad Babysitter.’ If you see this movie you will hate all of these people.
(Robert Pattinson plays a chauffer who sometimes drives a few of these people around. For the most part, he seems nice. His name is Jerome.)
‘Maps to the Stars’ premiered earlier this year at Cannes to mixed reviews. Film festivals can be an untrustworthy barometer for films, once you take into account who exactly is watching these movies at said film festivals. I laughed out loud three times during ‘Maps to the Stars’ at jokes that were so esoteric that only people who are in “the industry” or people who cover movies for a living would have any chance of understanding what these people are talking about. It is abnormal to laugh at these jokes. It’s not a great thing to be this inside baseball. (I really need to stop making sports references. I think this has something to do with the fact that my hotel is connected to what was once called the Skydome.)
The thing is, I like all of the actors in this movie. And everyone is really trying to make a little sense of the mess that they were given. But it comes off so schlocky at times. And, yes, I get that is probably the point, but schlock is schlock. Julianne Moore, who is actually pretty great in this movie, plays a character who sees the ghost of her dead mother. She’s not the only one who sees ghosts in this movie. ‘Maps to the Stars’ is filled with ghosts and is filled with fire. And it’s filled with characters that I really hated. Again, this is not a good movie, but at least it was interesting to observe. But if Cronenberg really wanted to tell us how much he hates Hollywood, I wish he would have just sent out a press release that said, “I hate Hollywood,” then went out and made a much better movie about a much better subject.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.