“Hollywood is a world that is seductive and repellent at the same time, and it is the combination of the two that makes it so potent.” David Cronenburg latest cinematic outing is a comment on human nature, part satirical sendup of Hollywood, part dysfunctional family drama and part decent into madness. It was Ben Wagner’s screenplay that persuaded the Canadian director to make a film about Los Angeles located amongst Hollywood personalities. Maps to the Stars (2014) is Cronenburg’s first film shot in the USA although many have been set there.
Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) was a famous actress who is now aging and quickly fading, a women haunted by memories of her mother a famous movie star who abused her as a child to such an extent that she is still having therapy years after her mother died in a fire. But this does not stop her wanting to play her mater in a remake of one of her most famous movies. The other main characters belong to the family Weiss. Father Sanford (John Cusack) is a celebrity TV psychologist, a man who see’s himself as a healer and who, incidentally, is in control of Havana’s therapy. Sanford and his wife Christina (Olivia Williams) are sister and brother; they were separated at birth and discovered their true relationship after meeting in college and becoming a couple. Christina also act’s as the manager of her precocious 13 year old son Benjie (Evan Bird), who after a stint at rehab when he was nine years old is attempting to put his movie career back on track while at the same time battling his demons. In to this potent mix we add Benjie’s sister Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) who has recently been released from a sanatorium where she was treated for criminal pyromania. Turning up in LA unannounced, still carrying the visible scars of her crime, she gets a job as the personnel assistant of Havana and attempts to re-engage with her family.
The strength of the film is in Wagner’s characters, the pull that LA has on them and finally how the narrative gradually reveals there complicated lives, secrets and fears. As well as a comedic tone there is a darkness that runs right throughout the movie with its unsettling observation of celebrity culture. This entertaining cross between Sunset Boulevard (1950) and 1999’s Magnolia won Julianne Moore yet another best actress award this time at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.