Movie Review: “Maps to the Stars”

Starring
Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Evan Bird, Sarah Gadon
Director
David Cronenberg

Less than a week after Hollywood celebrated itself at the Oscars in a televised circus of fashions, overlong acceptance speeches and underrepresented diversity, Canadian director David Cronenberg reminds us why even Hollywood excesses should have a limit in the weirdly satirical hybrid “Maps to the Stars.” The director best known for such classics as “The Fly,” “Scanners” and “A History of Violence” breaks new ground by filming in the States. It’s just too bad that he wasted the trip on such a manic, dated project filled with cynicism, incest and runaway egos.

Just off the bus is the fresh-faced but hideously scarred Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), a burn victim who seems to take things way too much in stride. Introducing herself as being from Jupiter (the city, not the planet), Agatha instantly attaches herself to her limo driver, Jerome (Robert Pattison). Of course, what would a limo driver be in this town without acting and/or writing aspirations? Jerome is all too quick to write her off as just another weird client who happens to be a really good tipper, but Agatha grows on him as she does with many people in the film. Thanks to social media and Carrie Fisher, who stars as herself, Agatha manages to quickly find a job as a personal assistant, or “chore whore,” to aging C-lister Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore). When Havana isn’t grasping to any last chance at stardom, she’s having fierce arguments with her dead mother (Sarah Gadon), who has no problems telling her what a disappointment she is.

Dysfunctional family time and visits from the beyond aren’t exclusive to the Segrand household, as we bounce back and forth between there and the Weiss compound. Agatha’s kid brother Benjie (Evan Bird) is 13 going on 40. He’s facing his own need for a ghostbuster with all the uncut crassness of a thousand Bieber clones rolled into one. Benjie’s the star of the “Bad Babysitter” franchise, which was so lucrative that stage mom Cristina (Olivia Williams) takes pride in squeezing out a multimillion dollar payday as if she were the real star. His dad, Stafford (John Cusack), is a self-help guru who rarely smiles, talks as though he’s three steps ahead of everyone, and administers a near-sadistic type of scream therapy to Havana.

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Blu-ray Review: Cosmopolis

On paper, the marriage of cult film director David Cronenberg and cult novelist Don DeLillo is no doubt an ideal one, but movies require bringing dozens or even hundreds of other random factors into the mix, and it’s the director’s job to bring all of it together into one cohesive vision. “Cosmopolis” should have been a masterpiece, and bubbling away beneath its immensely flawed surface, one can see that masterpiece lurking. Unfortunately, the film is painted wall to wall with an uninspired, thoughtless and flat performance from Robert Pattinson that drags the entire affair down to nearly unwatchable. He is in every scene and the entire picture revolves around him. Understand, I’ve nothing against Pattinson. Being largely unfamiliar with his work, I went into “Cosmopolis” assuming that Cronenberg would work cinematic legerdemain with the actor, as he has done countless times before with dozens of players. He did not.

People will argue that Pattinson’s billionaire Eric Packer is supposed to be dreary and lifeless, jaded about life as he is, and desperately keen to feel something – anything – as he takes his epic limo ride from one side of the city to the other just to get a haircut. I would argue back that it takes an actor with far greater chops and insight into his craft to achieve the performance necessary to make this movie work. It needed a young James Spader perhaps, or a Christian Bale, who already played a version of Packer in “American Psycho.” Allegedly, Colin Farrell was cast as Packer, but had to drop out due to conflicts with “Total Recall,” which is a big shame for film as an art form. It’s too bad, too, because “Cosmopolis” surrounds Pattinson with people like Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton and Paul Giamatti, all of whom attempt brave, inspired work that’s ultimately all for naught, since Pattinson’s like a giant pillow suffocating everyone and everything he comes into contact with. Sadly, there is no movie for this writer to review or discuss beyond this massive, fatal flaw. Perhaps you will be able to see it differently than I, and with all due reverence to both Cronenberg and DeLillo, I urge you to at least give it a shot.

The Blu-ray includes a commentary track from Cronenberg, a featurette on the film, and interviews with the cast and crew.

  

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