I really wanted to like Maps to the Stars. David Cronenberg is a genius, and even some of his “misses” are compelling to watch. But Maps is a flat trite story that is saved by the performances of its actors.
The movie opens with AGATHA WEISS (Mia Wasikowska) asleep on a bus going from Jupiter, Florida returning to Los Angeles. Having been committed to an institution after setting her house on fire with her little brother (Evan Bird) drugged up and locked in his room, she returns to seemingly seek forgiveness and atonement as one of her steps to recovery. Thanks to a Twitter friendship with CARRIE FISHER (herself), she gets a job as a personal assistant (chore whore) for HAVANA SEGRAND (Julianne Moore) who is trying to reprise her dead mother CLARICE TAGGERT’s (Sarah Gadon) role in the cult classic “Stolen Waters.” Agatha’s brother BENJIE is now an enfant terrible child actor who has just gotten out of rehab whose father is a television psychologist DR. STAFFORD WEISS (John Cusack) and mother CHRISTINA (Olivia Williams) is his manager.
Bruce Wagner’s script wants to be a biting Hollywood satire with all the predictable ingredients. Pretty ingenue travels to Hollywood. Bitchy actress whose career is in decline. Self-absorbed psychologist. Child star who’s starting down the road of excess. Liberal drug use. All of this paved with the work of enablers.
What makes this aspect of the story remotely bearable are the performances of the actors. Julianne Moore won the best actress prize at Cannes last year for this role. While she could have taken it to camp, she injected some new blood into the role by channeling a little of Lindsay Lohan. There is a charming scene where Havana calls Agatha upstairs to her bathroom and asks her to go to Whole Foods to get some laxatives because she was “backed up because of the Vicodin.”
Wasikowska is the glue to this film as Agatha connects all the strands together. Her Agatha is alternately vulnerable, innocent, scheming and psychotic. Rather than being over the top, she hits the right notes in every scene.
What makes the film disappointing is the supernatural thread that is treated superficially. Havana is haunted by her mother. Benjie is haunted by a girl he visits in the hospital at the beginning of the film who dies shortly thereafter from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Halfway in the movie when Agatha finally meets Benjie, she says, “Benjie. There’s this script. I can’t explain but you’re a part of this beautiful mythological script.” While Benjie thinks this is yet another script he’s being pitched, Maps probably would have been better if it focused more on that rather than a convenient plot device.
Speaking of plot devices, I’m still wondering why Towncar driver JEROME FONTANA (Robert Pattinson) was written into the script. Was his function only to serve as point of conflict between Havana and Agatha?
This could have been a much better movie, and with Cronenberg, I was expecting a lot better.