Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia and Nymphomania Parts I and II have brought him commercial success, David Fincher’s Gone Girl is just over the horizon and Christopher Nolan’s Interstella is due for release in November. Maps to the Stars comes in the high noon of a thriller/bodyshock revival led by the old masters of the nineties.
Sharing sensibilities with films like The Skin I Live In and Melancholia, David Corenberg doesn’t quite deliver a film as good as these but one that will appease fans of the genre. Though there’s a distinct lack of hope in the film that stops on from getting too attached.
Mia Wasikowska plays Agatha, something of a sycophant, she arrives in Hollywood and soon finds herself PA for a struggling and insecure actor, Havana Sergrand (Julianne Moore). Then we jump between the fortunes of Agatha, young actor Jerome (Robert Pattison) and an archetype celebrity family made up of John Cusack, Olivia Williams and Evan Bird, whom you may recognise from The Killing.
Die-hard Corenberg fans shouldn’t expect a return to the days of Videodrome but I’m sure they won’t feel too disappointed either – there’s actually a lot to like here. What’s especially fun to see in Maps to the Stars is the creative balance between old camera work and a new cinematography and sound. The latter the work of Howard Shore in his third collaboration with Corenberg, and his finest work on a thriller since Seven – it’s a synth-progressive slow-builder of a soundtrack that creates suspense were there wouldn’t have been any. Not that this leads to anything but the film does remain darkly entertaining throughout with a clever story-line that unravels well. You might also find yourself caring about the horrid characters, so well done to screenwriter Bruce Wagner.
And there are some very strong performances – particularly from Julianne Moore, Best Actress winner at Cannes, who dominates the first half of this film. Given real space to act in, she in no ways takes this for granted. As does Evan Bird, whose audition supposedly alleviated Corenberg’s fear that a child actor couldn’t be good enough to play Benji. Meanwhile you’re probably more familiar with Wasikowska and Pattison, used to market the film; unfortunately their characters are hardly given the development to match their screen time. In fact a lack of a driving force might hinder this films success as it did in A Dangerous Method. However an extremely candid look at the character’s mental health earns the film brownie points both ethically. As far as entertainment goes, it comes down to whether or not you have a taste for Corenberg, I’d watch Crash first and find out.
Filled with sex, drugs and ghosts, it’s hard to criticise Maps to the Stars for a lack of entertainment or directions; I’ve been slightly surprised by some of the negativity surrounding it, perhaps the ‘it’s all for nowt’ feeling throughout ruins the possibility of a really suspenseful film.