Cannes: Maps to the Stars review

Whilst Maps to the Stars may not be the sharp and cutting Hollywood satire that many were expecting from director David Cronenberg and writer Bruce Wagner, it is still a highly amusing take on tinseltown’s delusions and features a great deal of wit, energy and imagination.

The film’s time is given over to multiple characters and their stories, and whilst Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska) may be the floating presence that links them altogether she is far from a traditional protagonist. She’s more like a foreign body entering a closed system, upsetting it and sending it into chaos from within.

Weiss enters the story, and Hollywood, in an executive car driven by would-be actor and screenwriter Jerome Fontana (Robert Pattinson). Before long, Carrie Fisher appears as herself and as a favour to Weiss, who she knows from Twitter, helps the young woman find work with the emotionally unstable and self-obsessed actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore).

It so happens that Segrand is trying to win a part in a remake of a film that originally starred her mother, at the same time as working out her attendant subtextual issues with Dr. Stafford Weiss. He, in turn is the father of an irritating Justin Beiber-esque actor named Benjie (Evan Bird).

As you can probably guess from the surnames the connections between the characters doesn’t stop there. Wagner’s script may stretch a little too far at times as it searches for an interesting structure, but he’s still devised a fascinating work that sprawls and contracts in a rather pleasing manner.

Cronenberg is clearly having a great deal of fun too, and while Peter Suschitzky’s cinematography can be a little on the flat side, the look of the film does successfully present this breezy plastic society as a vivid, waking nightmare.

As the characters continue to mix, clash and destroy one another, the film becomes much more sinister. Early belly laughs at lines about Scientology and Harvey Weinstein are replaced with more ghoulish cackles and shocked gasps at dead dogs and incestuous relations (Cronenberg and Wagner have created a Hollywood that is full of inbreeding).

In some respects, the film does continue to be rather broad in even its bleaker third act, but Cronenberg successfully orchestrates everything into delicious derangement.

Maps to the Stars is compelling and extravagant in all the right ways. It’s maybe not Cronenberg’s most serious or intelligent work but it’s certainly one of his most enjoyable for some time.