Be prepared to meet some of the worst people in Los Angeles in David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars.
We’ve got the Weiss family: Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) a TV therapist who’s about to go on a book tour, his wife Cristina (Olivia Williams), the manager for their son, 13-year old Benji. Benji (Evan Bird), just out of rehab, is a child star who is about to start filming the sequel to his hit movie, Bad Babysitter.
We’ve also got Havana (Julianne Moore), an actress coming apart at the seams. She’ll do anything to grab her next role, playing the part her late mother mom made famous in a remake of the film. She sleeps with the star, begs a fellow actress to put in a good word to the director and even lobbies for the part after another actress has a tragic event take place.
Things start to shift in everyone’s world when the scarred – both mentally and physically – Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), the long, lost family member of the Weiss family arrives in town and quickly figures out how become part of the LA environment. “For a disfigured schizophrenic, you have the town pretty wired,” Benji tells her after finally reconnecting. She soon befriends an aspiring actor/limo driver (Robert Pattinson) and begins to work as a Havana’s personal assistant, who’s a patient of good ole’ Stafford Weiss.
Why has Agatha come back? Is it to try and reconnect with the family who threw her away when things got tough? Is it to redeem herself and get back the life she thinks she should have had? Or is it both?
The film is about the excess and fame of Hollywood and the lengths people go to in trying to keep both. And the thing is, these people actually do exist. I’ve met people like that over the years and they are terrible, terrible human beings. They feel entitled for some odd reason. Entitlement is weird because if you have it, even for a short while, you feel like you deserve it forever going forward. And none of these people have any real friends. They have people who work for them. They have family members. Hangers on and people who would leave in a heartbeat when things got tough.
Most of these characters are so reprehensible, except for Pattinson’s character, that when the inevitable bad things happen to them you’re genuinely happy.
Pattinson’s limo driver is just looking for a break. A young kid who’s got no connections in the business except for the executives he picks up while driving a limo. You can’t blame him when he falls into the world of these people.
Moore feels like she’s channeling Lindsay Lohan here. She desperate to seem younger than she is with the way she dresses and acts. She even has a higher pitched voice. She’s really great here and it’s the polar opposite of the character she plays in Still Alice.
It’s Wasikiwska though who is most impressive. She’s got the hardest role in the film and she’s terrific. If you haven’t noticed, she’s becoming a wonderful character actress who should be getting more recognition. Check her out in Tracks if you have a chance.
The film isn’t for everyone, I’ll say that. But Cronenberg captures the desperation of Hollywood perfectly and for that, it deserves a look.