“On the stairs of Death I write your name, Liberty.”
I don’t consider myself a David Cronenberg fan since some of his recent films didn’t appeal to me and I haven’t had the chance to see his earlier movies, but I do tend to appreciate his work more than I actually enjoy it. This was the case with the incredibly twisted and dark Hollywood satire, Maps to the Stars. It wasn’t a joyful or pleasurable experience for me, but I did admire some aspects of this film. I tend to go for more straightforward narratives than surreal films so that explains why I enjoyed A History of Violence and Eastern Promises much more than his other films. Those two films remain my favorite from Cronenberg. Maps to the Stars was a major improvement from Cosmopolis, but I still had a hard time accepting some of the dark humor and Cronenberg’s hyperrealistic style. I’m sure Cronenberg fans will love this film because he uses plenty of symbols and makes fun of the vein world of celebrities. Using Hollywood itself to establish his familiar dark backgrounds, Cronenberg goes full mode with these messed-up and unpredictable characters. The film has a Greek tragedy structure as well as incorporating familiar ghost story elements to the narrative. Maps to the Stars is as insane as the world of the celebrities it tries to portray. There is also a lot of industry talk going on in this film exploring the Hollywood dynasty and the obsession people have for celebrities.
Like in most of Cronenberg’s films the characters are difficult to sympathize with and of course it is the case once again with these self centered celebrities who seem to be completely messed up. No one does a better job than Julianne Moore who plays a manic-depressive washed up movie star. She is amazing in this film, but completely annoying at the same time. I wasn’t a huge fan of Evan Bird and John Cusack’s performances. Cusack went over the top with his character and it didn’t really work for me. Mia Wasikowska on the other hand is very subtle in her performance. She seems to pick some strange roles, but she pulls them off. Her character has scars in her body from burns, but they aren’t nearly as disgusting as the souls of these celebrities. Cronenberg seems to be obsessed with disfigured women in his films, but he makes sure we notice that what really is disfigured in Hollywood are the souls of these celebrities. I can give Cronenberg credit for his style, but I can’t say I enjoyed this film. I still don’t understand what was going on with that fire sequence in the film. The CGI was terrible and the scene looked completely fake, but I’m not sure if Cronenberg was intentionally trying to make it so considering he has a twisted sense of humor.