Maps to the Stars18
Crash. If we had to pinpoint where it started to go wrong for director David Cronenberg, it would probably have to be, quite appropriately, with this 1996 title of his. Before it, the Canadian writer/director helmed some of the eighties’ most deliciously disturbing films. You know the ones: Scanners, Videodrome, The Fly etc.
Since then his output has been patchy at best, with 2012's Cosmopolis a new low for the talented director. The one thing that can be said for this latest effort is that at least it's better than that. Just.
Arriving into the glamour of LAX is young Agatha (Mia Wasikowska); she's hired a limo for the day, driven by Jerome (Robert Pattinson) – who wouldn't you know it, is actually a writer and actor, and driving is only his day job – to show her around the homes of the rich and famous.
Whilst driving she informs him that she's actually friends with Carrie Fisher; she wanted research for her new book and Agatha helped out, so now they're Twitter buddies.
It's her connection to Carrie that leads her to a position working as a personal assistant to actress Sevana Segrand (Julianne Moore); she's all pumped for a role that you could say she was born to play, that of her own mother who was a famous actress back in the day, in a remake of her classic, Stolen Waters.
Elsewhere in Hollywood, someone else is nailing down a deal; 13-year-old Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird) is signing his name to the sequel of the mega-successful Bad Babysitter, as long as the producers can get past his time in rehab.
Having got the job with Sevana, it transpires that Agatha has a hidden agenda; she's actually come out to find and confront her family about the scars she carries, both emotional and physical, and who knows maybe rebuild a few burnt bridges along the way. After all, this is Hollywood, where anything can happen.
In 1992 Robert Altman released The Player, the sharpest of satires on those that run Hollywood. Cronenberg's latest is the palest imitation, that's not at all flattering.
To write the screenplay, Cronenberg roped in Bruce Wagner, whose biggest screen credit to date has to be 1987's A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Why Cronenberg thought he was up to the challenge of writing a script now is anyone's guess, but he certainly got it wrong. This is one of the most lifeless films you're ever likely to witness.
Wagner's biggest achievement with it was being able to write some of the blandest, most unlikeable characters to appear on screen in years. The script is incredibly stagnant, with a plot devoid of any interest whatsoever. Audiences have seen enough films about Hollywood to know how shallow the talent can be, but Wagner's script slaps it down as if it's some kind of major revelation. It's not.
And if there's a deeper, darker tale of a family in turmoil, well, good luck funding it.
It's only a number of fine performances that save this from being a complete waste of time. Moore delivers a strong and vibrant act of a self-obsessed actress - no doubt she's come across one or two of those in her time - whilst Wasikoska adds yet another watchable turn to her growing CV.
There was a time when Cronenberg's work made you feel something, one way or another, but sadly this film is about as vacuous as its tired subject matter and really ends up going nowhere worth watching.