Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Maps to the Stars (2014)

As this is a David Cronenberg film, it's not really a surprise that it is a little odd/weird (which also means that, after 'Stoker', 'Only Lovers Left Alive', and 'The Double', Mia Wasikowska's presence isn't surprising either), though not as unusual as some of Cronenberg's other films. Hey, at least it isn't David Lynch 'weird'. Otherwise we'd have a three hour film of people gurning non-stop while the film mocks you for watching it. Apparently, that kind of stuff is 'artistic' and that is why it is beyond me.

I'm not entirely sure how to describe what the film is about. It comes across as being about a bunch of fame-hungry people in a pressurising environment who are all slowly beginning to crack. It starts with Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) arriving in LA and getting a job as an assistant to Julianne Moore's actress Havana, who herself is desperately trying to get a particular part in a film but is also haunted by her past (as in it manifests before her). Meanwhile, Agatha's presence unsettles her estranged family (her parents being played by John Cusack and Olivia Williams) because of her attempt to kill her celebrity brother, Benjie (Evan Bird), and the fire she caused (that disfigured her slightly in the process). At the same time, Benjie is seeing the ghosts of dead children which threatens to push him over the edge.

This is one of those films that seems, from a vague perspective, like some people are going to hate it and view it as a stupid waste of time, while others really like it because of what it looks at and it it looks at that. I guess that is down to personal preference and what each individual can stand in a film. I'm leaning towards the latter. I watched this as part of a quadruple at the cinema (to save time and money that is what I do now - the other films on the day were 'What We Did On Our Holiday', 'I Origins', and 'The Equalizer') and, as it was the last of the four, I went into it a little tired and, as such, I wasn't in the mood for something similar to Cronenberg's last two films (the intermittently engaging but simultaneously dull 'Cosmopolis' and the forgettable 'A Dangerous Method') - which is what I thought 'Maps to the Stars' would be like. Happily, the film had a strange pull and the near-two hour run-time went by reasonably quickly.

I found the film to be interesting and entertaining. I thought it was handled and acted in a way to make the material work when it could have gone wrong or just done nothing. The way I saw it, it paints a pretty unflattering picture of Hollywood and the types who might inhabit it. Which is not new to film but 'Maps to the Stars' comes out of it with its own identity. There were a couple of moments that did evade me (did I miss something?) but that didn't do much to dampen the viewing for me. I don't think this is as good as Cronenberg's best, but that isn't a problem. This still comes across as a solid, intriguing piece of film-making.

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