Review: Maps to the Stars, Cronenberg’s Hollywood nightmare

David Cronenberg’s nihilistic take on Hollywood in Maps to the Stars pulls back the curtains of celebrity life and those with ruthless ghosts from their pasts leading them on a path of destruction. Sometimes fascinating, unflinching and darkly humorous, Cronenberg’s latest is a spider web of a story that sees a handful of people linked to one another in the unlikeliest of ways, shining a bright light on a Hollywood nightmare.

There aren’t many minds in cinema quite like David Cronenberg’s, so when he focuses his lens on the very world in which he himself has left an iconic impression on, the result is a satirical jab at an industry with plenty of hidden demons of its own. And that’s the main focus of Maps to the Stars, filled with over the top characters with more skeletons in their closet than a William Castle film.

Led by an A-list cast (Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack and Sarah Gadon) the characters are, unsurprisingly, the real driving force behind the film (for better or worse) because the plot is a simple, one-way-street kind of narrative that never quite feels like it’s going anywhere worthwhile; you’re just a fly on the wall as you watch these people hit rock bottom.

But this is where the real issue lies with Maps to the Stars. For a film so heavily driven by its individual characters, there’s not a single one worth caring about. And while that was no doubt Cronenberg’s intention, I felt it did more harm than good. Aside from Mia Wasikowska’s Agatha, who is truly unsettling, everyone else feels hollow and lost in Cronenberg’s strange world.

It’s frustrating, too, because there was a lot going for Maps to the Stars, especially with the way Cronenberg injected some psychological torment into it. Seeing the already fragile-minded being further destroyed by relentless ghosts gave this one a nice horrific quality, but it’s ultimately wasted on characters who are impossible to sympathize with.

The film spirals towards the inevitable, offering no closure for any of its characters and leaving behind more questions than it had answers for. It’s not necessarily a bad movie, it’s just an empty one that teases greatness before going up in flames. And speaking of flames, there’s a scene in this movie with the worst CGI fire I have ever seen in a movie. Somehow, the brilliantly talented director behind some of the greatest practical effect-driven films ever created… messed up fire.

2.5/5

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If you are ever attacked by a gorilla just sit back and relax while you enjoy the once in a life time feeling of your limbs being ripped off.

16 thoughts on “Review: Maps to the Stars, Cronenberg’s Hollywood nightmare

  1. Yep, definitely agree with you on this one Ryan, not a fan. Aside from a few really good performances, especially from Mia Wasikowska, there was very little here to grab on to. I always saw it as the opening night film of the relatively big local film festival. I think it was a really bad choice (suspect it was chosen cause it’s a big name director and was an Aussie premiere). Sucked the energy out of the room and don’t think got everyone amped up for the couple of weeks of movies to come.

    1. Spot on, bro. The performances were great, which almost makes it worse that it was nearly impossible to connect with their characters.

      What a shitty way to start a film festival, holy crap. You’re right, though, Cronenberg’s name alone is enough to get that sort of attention.

    1. Yeah, it was an unfortunate mess with great performances.

      Even now, I still can’t believe that scene with the fire. There’s a moment in which someone is on fire and they are engulfed in the worst looking CGI fire… ever. It’s so bad that it looks intentional. Absolutely baffling.

  2. I thought it was better than Cronenberg’s recent, I agree Wasikowska was very unsettling but for me Moore stole the show, she was way better here than in Still Alice

    1. No argument’s here! Cronenberg is very hit or miss for me. This one seems to be you either like it or you hate it. Moore was phenomenal and definitely one of the film’s highlights.

    1. Julianne Moore is fantastic in the film and reviews have been mostly a love it or hate it kind of relationship. I’d say check it out and see what you think!

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