Sunday, May 18, 2014

First 'Maps To The Stars' Reviews + Media Reactions

'Maps To The Stars' just had it's screening at Cannes and the first reviews and reactions are in!

Please keep in mind that reviews can contain spoilers. Click on the links to read the full reviews.


The Wrap
His Cannes entry, “Maps to the Stars,” returns in a way to territory Cronenberg explored in “Dead Ringers,” and it's probably the director's best film in at least a decade. Here, working with the talented literary satirist of Hollywood culture, Bruce Wagner, Cronenberg has hit his stride in a big way. He nails our celebrity-obsessed culture, and the sickness it breeds, right to the wall


Cusack is appropriately creepy as the father, and Williams is solid. To say any more about them is really to spoil things. Robert Pattinson has a small part, but gets a love scene, of course, to satisfy his fans. Pattinson and Cronenberg are developing a nice collaboration, however, and here's to hoping we get to see more from the two of them.

The Playlist
The director's also been gifted a cracking cast for the material. Before you ask: no, Robert Pattinson isn't in it all that much (his role could argue be lifted from the film without too much problem), but yes, he's pretty good in it. Plus you get to see him as a sort of glam-rock version of Khan from "Star Trek," so there's that. Olivia Williams' role is similarly underwritten, but she does find new texture to the kind of ice maiden that she's riffed on before.


But on the whole, the film is a sickly enjoyable wallow in the scandalous, fucked-up side of showbusiness, and a real return to form for the filmmaker. If nothing else, it'll rid you of any last desire to go on an actual LA star tour, and that alone is something to be thankful for.

Telegraph (5 stars)
Jerome, a chauffeur and would-be actor winningly played by Robert Pattinson.


My instant reaction, after stumbling, open-mouthed, from the cinema, was a pathological need to stumble back in again. There’s so much in this seething cauldron of a film, so many film-industry neuroses exposed and horrors nested within horrors, that one viewing is too much, and not nearly enough. Cronenberg has made a film that you want to unsee – and then see and unsee again.

The Guardian (4 stars)
Maps to the Stars is a tense and scary movie, unwholesome in the hold that it has on the audience. Perhaps, in the end, it is too extravagantly cynical to be entirely truthful about Hollywood and LA, but it has a Jacobean power, the kind of thing that John Webster or Thomas Middleton and William Rowley might write if they were living in the 21st century: a claustrophobic nightmare of despair

Film 4
Maps To The Stars is a film having plenty of fun with the notion of Hollywood dynasties and the processes by which success is achieved and cemented – who knows whom, who’s seeing whom, who hates whom: all the invisible, untraceable connections that bind Hollywood together. The joke is that there is no map to these stars, and without an innate sense of direction you’ll soon be lost. Hollywood is often decried as incestuous, and this film plays that idea to the hilt, with the product of incestuous breeding even more troubled and egotistical than the generation before that. - See more at:

Little White Lies
True to style, David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars is a work of cinematic fusion. Like the weeping vagina hidden underneath Marylin Burns' armpit, here we have a bracingly blasé investigation into unmentionable family taboos which has been forcibly integrated onto the body of a noxious (and not wholly convincing) La La Land burlesque. There are no waspish one-liners or ironic rib-nudges here — this is a punk jeremiad which rams your face into the constipated asshole of Hollywood. The thrill of watching the film comes from attempting to locate the strained sinews where these two strange sides converge — or, as the film would have it, finding "the flesh that says yes".

Twitch Film
Julianne Moore's raw power is on display, but the Blanche DuBois act feels equally wrought. Mia Wasikowska and Robert Pattinson are perfectly fine. Newcomer Evan Bird can spout "Jew cunt" as written on the page and come across as douchey when called for, but his venom comes across more as school-bully than truly demonic child actor.

Time Out London
The story is wild, but it’s dragged through the rough patches, when satire rubs up against exaggeration, by three killer performances from Waskikowska, Moore and newcomer Bird. Cronenberg’s direction feels at home in a world of soulless homes and offices, clubs at night and flash cars. He locates a deeply sick spirit in his tale and explores it through far-fetched fiction told with deadly seriousness, also adding a dose of baroque to proceedings and a streak of wicked humour. ‘Maps of the Stars’ offers some ludicrous moments and a fair few bum notes, but we’re still left with a troubling sense of infected bloodlines, sick Hollywood genes and a world any sane person would run a mile from.

The cast synchs with the material by exuding its wicked extremes. Moore's icky performance marks her best work since "Magnolia," and Wasikowska's eerie disdain for the older competition allows her to make a welcome shift into creepier material. Cusack's usual deadpan delivery gets a fresh kick from his character's contemptible eccentricities. Bird, to date best known for his role on "The Killing," nicely inhabits the child actor mold by radiating privilege in every line.

Only Pattinson, in a handful of scenes, is underutilized—yet the new context of his celebrity in this anti-celebrity project marks one more satisfying ingredient in Cronenberg's subversive mixture. "Maps to the Stars" is like a poetic dissection of familiar ingredients that zeroes in on its worst offenders. Every major plot point, from Havana struggling to land a role playing her own mother to Agatha seeking to reenact a perverted incident from her parents' past, underscores the impression of Hollywood's redundant tendencies enveloped in an eternal downward cycle.

Movie City News
Because Wagner’s script calls for actors to do and say depraved things with a straight face, the film couldn’t have been made—in this current form, anyway—without Cronenberg’s history of directing violence and dissecting the psycho-bizarre. Every player, especially Julianne Moore, surprises with their eagerness to go with the flow of debauchery. Mia Wasikowska is crazier here than she was in Stoker, and that’s saying something. Robert Pattinson, Cronenberg’s oddly appropriate muse, no longer needs to prove his authenticity as a proper actor. Finally, we need to see more of Evan Bird, witnessed here in his breakout role as a hilarious asshole narcissist. To be sure, Cronenberg’s navigation combined with Wagner’s pen (“it’s a fucking art film!”) make Maps to the Stars both a standout of Cannes 2014, and the best film the director has made since 2005.

“Maps” is the most overtly comedic screenplay Cronenberg has ever directed, but he hasn’t tailored his lensing or editing style to fit. The laughs come anyway, although some of Wagner’s funniest moments are left to languish, including an astoundingly inappropriate scene in which Havana celebrates the tragedy that forces a rival actress to resign from the role she’d coveted. If anything, Cronenberg has introduced a level of uncertainty as to whether it’s even appropriate to laugh when, say, Dr. Weiss starts punching his daughter in the stomach or Benjie strangles his young Ron Howard-like co-star — and the mayhem only escalates from there.

The Film Stage
enjie, Agatha, and Havana make up the central narrative dynamic of Maps to the Stars, as Wagner’s script gets into the incestuous world of Hollywood’s sequels and remakes through, well, literal incest. The dull metaphor worked out here does mutate and become more and more strange—preemptions of the dead, Paul Eluard’s resistance poem Liberté, and many fires and eventual blood—that bring the film out of its broad strokes of pill popping and the private-public blend. And Cronenberg certainly shows his constrict control of tone: a shot reverse shot conversation is always given very subtle touches in his direction under Peter Suschitzky’s intensely white color palette; they’re rarely shot equidistant from each other, the camera always slanted to give one character just a sly bit of power. Howard Shore’s futuristic tones carry a hypnotic power that carries the film through its obsession with destiny.

Standard UK
Maps to the Stars begins as blistering comedy, like a more extreme version of Curb Your Enthusiasm, with a touch of The Bling Ring thrown in, but it soon morphs into a different kind of film, the dead returning in hallucination. Bruce Wagner’s script takes a fantasy turn that perhaps doesn’t make other than imaginative sense — but this is a funny, hypnotically nasty movie that goes further than anything before in treating Hollywood as a sickness.

Hollywood Elsewhere
Map really cuts to the rancid bone of Hollywood fuckwad culture in a mad-brushstroke way. I think…no, I know it’s Cronenberg’s best since A History of Violence or Spider, and before that Crash, Dead Ringers and The Dead Zone. Julianne Moore owns it pretty much as a nearly over-the-hill actress who’s desperate to stay in the game, but everyone else is on the same page here — John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, Robert Pattinson (yes, he’s on the stick), Sarah Gadon and the afore-mentioned Bird. They all get what’s going on, and it’s all quite perfect and complete

"Maps to the Stars" is "Mullholland Dr." on a different type of acid: unlike David Lynch’s eerie vision of Hollywood as a nightmare glazed in sunshine, this Bruce Wagner-scripted satire positions Tinseltown as the most coveted insane asylum on the planet (not to mention a village of the damned, which it has remained at least since Billy Wilder’s "Sunset Blvd."). The interlocking constellations of characters—played by the appropriately stellar ensemble of Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, Olivia Williams and the newcomer Evan Bird—all revolve around the idea of childhood: variously lost, corrupted, belated or revived. John Cusack’s new-age therapist helps others to locate their "magical child", and the characters are regularly visited by specters of dead kids (all craving a strange union that the living perpetually deny them).

Independent UK
Pattinson (in his second film with Cronenberg after Cosmopolis) brings a sly humour to his role as the young actor on the make, genial but as much on the make as anyone else. Wasikowska is wonderfully detached and calm as the angel of destruction.

Way to Indie
As ever with Cronenberg though, the acting is there as moral support to the more crucial element of theme and screenplay. The corruption depicted in this degenerative society is probably as far from the actual truth as the mention of a real-life celebrity is in the film (they’re mentioned a lot.) The razor-sharp screenplay is its biggest weapon, but it tends to cut too deep at times with certain lines bordering on cliche. Fans of the post-Spder Cronenberg will, I believe, devour every surreal and entertaining moment of Maps To The Stars. For my tastes, the dark humor and the intelligent weaving of violence, fame, and star-mania is enough to make me appreciate it and call it the best film Cronenberg has made since Eastern Promises. The themes of incest, and some of the characters’ fates (not Julianne Moore’s though, that was fantastic) went over the top and made the nightmarish atmosphere too lucid for its own good. All in all though, great fun, and an invigorating addition to Cronenberg’s offbeat filmography.

Twitter Reactions

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am a sucker for movies about Hollywood, and I thought Maps to the Stars was fascinating.