I’m a sucker for films that can be described as ‘kaleidoscopic’ and this is one of them. In dramatic scope Cronenberg’s drama is reminiscent of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia or Boogie Nights – dense, hard to penetrate, slowly unravelling, completely absorbing featuring a hypnotic range of characters. Fractured relationships, shards of broken souls. It’s uncontrolled, following the many strands of Hollywood’s malaise through its monstrous range of damaged characters carrying demons: a pyromaniac daughter of incest (Mia Wasikowska), her brother who’s a Culkin-esque, post-Bieber drug addicted child star (Evan Bird), a deteriorating actress (Julianne Moore) still haunted by her mother’s abuse but wanting to portray that same woman in a biopic, a TV psychologist (John Cusack) exploiting and taking advantage of high profile clients…and then there’s Carrie Fisher. Robert Pattinson plays the only version of sanity, he himself holding onto a false dream of becoming a screenwriter, whilst working as a limo driver for the stars, making for an interesting meta footnote given his recent outing in Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis in which he was the one being driven everywhere.
The performances are electric as Cronenberg delivers a cluster of clusterfucks and lets everyone and everything rip and sprue vitriol. He inverts the Hollywood fairytale to make it a sick nightmare, then pours satire over the hyper-reality, dissecting our own infatuation with this waking unworld. Its pathos comes close to feeling complete, close but not quite getting there, almost drowning in its own weight and suffocation. If this stand up to a second viewing it has all the strength of something rediscovered as a masterpiece, lying under layers and layers of degradation.
Maps to the Stars is out now in the UK. Running time 112 mins. Certificate 18 (UK).
Review by David Rank