Saturday, 27 September 2014

Maps to the Stars (3¾ Stars)

After seeing this film in the cinema I found it difficult to review. I cheated by checking reviews written by other people, but I don't like their reviews either. I think the problem is that the film has different stories which are interlocked by sharing the same people, but actually have little to do with one another. It's the same scenario that we have in "Magnolia", except that P. T. Anderson makes a big deal of stories happening in parallel while David Cronenberg just lets them happen.

Let me attempt a partial synopsis of the film. Spoiler-free, of course. Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is a psychotherapist who has become a millionaire through television appearances, self-help books and treating the Hollywood stars. His unconventional counselling techniques involve talking to the actresses -- he only has female clients? -- while massaging them. But there are several dark secrets in his life. His wife is his sister. His 13-year-old son Benjie, the star of "Bad Babysitter", has just spent four years in drug rehab. His 18-year-old daughter Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) was sent to a mental asylum as a child after starting a fire, and he refuses to let her contact his family.

Agatha returns to Hollywood with the intention of marrying her brother. After all, she's only following the example set my her parents. She returns using a false name to avoid suspicion. At the airport she meets and grows attached to Jerome (Robert Pattinson), a young man who is working as a limo driver while trying to make it as a screenwriter. She becomes the personal assistant of Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), an aging actress and one of Dr. Weiss's patients, who is desperate to star in a film remake in which she would play the same role that her now deceased mother played 30 years earlier.

The film is a savaging attack on the Hollywood film community and the people who populate it. The teen stars that Benjie mixes with are the ugliest of all. They've entered an adult world, and they've adopted its conventions to survive. They talk bad about others behind their backs and fight their way to the top by trampling on their peers. The adults too are heartless. When the son of Havana's friend Azita (Jayne Heitmeyer) dies, Havana pretends to be sympathetic, but she's really pleased because Azita is no longer able to star in a film role that Havana wanted.

I don't think my synopsis does the film justice, even though it's better than anything else I've read so far. I've omitted many things that are going on, but it should give you a rough impression. It's a film worth seeing more than once. It confused me on first viewing, but there's a good chance I'll rate it higher next time I see it.

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