Quick story about David Cronenberg; My earliest memory of his work is actually not even a film he directed, it's a film that he appeared in. As a kid I remember watching "Nightbreed" and being scared out of my mind. Sure there are plenty of monsters and mutants in the film, but the one thing that stood out to me was a guy in a mask with a zipper and buttons for eyes. Only later would I find out that man behind the mask was David Cronenberg, the same guy behind classics like "The Fly" and "Scanners." In the past decade or so, Cronenberg has taken a departure form the "body horror" that had made him famous, and has concentrated on more intimate character pieces like "Eastern Promises" and "Cosmopolis." Now, in what I might call his most interesting work in quite some time, Cronenberg takes on Hollyweird and all of it's kookiness in "Map to the Stars," starring Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, and Mia Wasikowska.
The skinny on "Map" is this; young Agatha (Wasikowska) arrives in town and is greeted by limo driver, Jerome (Pattinson). Agatha has just gotten into town via Jupiter, Florida and is looking for Benji Weiss, the young star of the "Bad Babysitter" series of films. Meanwhile, we meet Havana (Moore) the daughter of movie star who died in a fire who is receiving counseling from Dr. Stafford Weiss (Cusack). Havana gets word from her agent that a film is being produced about her mother's life and naturally Havana feels she is best actress for the role. The film plays out where we learn more about all of the major characters in the film and how weird do things get? Well, this is a Cronenberg film after all......
Based on reviews that I've been reading about "Map" this is really a love it or hate it flick. I've read that some people are disgusted about the insinuated and pretty much apparent incest connotations, as well as the casual nudity and dark subject matter. This is where I say "grow up!" Sure, some of the content is a little over-the-top, but you'd be a fool to not think things like this happen in Hollywood.
The interwoven plot is interesting and the film is a Chuck Palahniuk, David Lynch, and Bret Easton Ellis mash-up of insane and maniacal proportions. At first I thought this film was actually written by someone of Ellis' ilk, but upon further inspection the writing duties went to Bruce Wagner, who is best known for writing "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors." It's odd for Cronenberg to go with a writer that has so few credits to his name, but the writing is actually very well done, visceral, and perfect for the film.
Now, a lot of people were in love with Julianne Moore's performance in "Still Alice," but I would go as far as saying that her turn in "Map" was vastly superior in it's weirdness and fearlessness. We all know that Moore is a great actress that has been overlooked for awards for years, but wouldn't it have been nice if she was rewarded for a role that required more than just having an ailment and having to overcome it? I'd say yes, but I'm sure a lot of people would go against me. Outside of Moore, the supporting cast is solid, and it's good to see that John Cusack is still getting work that matters and not falling into the same trap that has confounded Nicholas Cage for the better part of a decade. I don't know what it is, but Cage and Cusack to me are almost one in the same. "Map" also shows me more of the talent that I know is residing inside of Robert Pattinson. He had a great turn in "Cosmopolis" and showed me more in last year's under-appreciated "The Rover" and albeit a small role, he is still good in this film and his scenes with Mia Wasikowska are small, but tragic.
All in all, "Map to the Stars" is an interesting and dark take on celebrity and the toll it can take on those with weak constitutions. While this film does seem more in the wheelhouse of someone like Lynch, it's great to see David Cronenberg's take on Hollywood since he is mostly a director who is always on the outside looking in, on his own accord of course. And while I do like that he is taking more chances on projects like "Cosmopolis" and "A Dangerous Method" I would like to see him get back to his older, body horror work one day.
Fun Fact: Hollywood was established in 1853 with a single adobe hut just outside of Los Angeles, California.