In a movie throwback, we take a look at the 2015 film Map to the Stars and how it depicts Hollywood.
Hollywood has always had a love-hate relationship with itself. It’s rife with narcissism, insecurity, self-absorption, career obsession, the bizarre, the irrational, the weird and the whacky – all wrapped up in a flurry of red carpet fashion faux pas and off-duty Starbucks guzzling yoga-come-rolled-out-of-bed daywear.
The haute-couture façade tries to hide the dark and troubled side of Hollywood – often failing – as in David Cronenberg’s noir satire ‘Maps To The Stars’. Yes, Tinseltown is one tough crowd full of the vacuous and the vicious and here, we take a look at the dark side of fame through ‘Maps To The Stars’ – which presents a steep history of Hollywood’s naval-gazing flicks.
‘Maps’ dives deep into this dark side of Hollywood through the monstrous egos of a family chasing celebrity, fame, and the ghosts of their troubled past. ‘Maps’ is a dark and satirical ensemble comedy with a storyline full of characters seemingly incapable of decency, but with some courageous performances by a stellar and quirky cast including Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska. This star-studded line-up each gets to sink their teeth into characters who are desperate to deeply disturbed, and pathetic to pathological and who spend their time manipulating, wheeling and dealing and virtually no time doing the great work they aspire to. ‘Maps’ follows in the footsteps of other Hollywood autobiographies; films like Sunset Boulevard (1950) and The Bad and the Beautiful (1951) – but Cronenberg’s flick is far more wicked.
‘Maps’ storyline centres around the damage Tinseltown fame can have on child-stars, with Beiber-esque, drug-ravaged Benjie (Evan Bird), pyromaniac burn-victim Hollywood-obsessed Agatha (Mia Wisikowska), and Havana Segrand (Academy Award winner Julianne Moore) as the heroine of narcissism – an ageing actress living in the shadow of her famous late mother. These cornerstone roles are surrounded by a bevy of other damaged-goods characters like therapy-wielding passive-aggressive psychologist (John Cusack), a neurotic stage mum (Olivia Williams) and slightly rough-around-the-edges brooding chauffeur (Robert Pattinson) – a callow limo driver on a shallow crusade to sleep his way into Hollywood’s screen writing guild.
As the narrative takes us through the irony and ugliness of Hollywood with some disturbing plot twists and confronting delusions and psychoses, a nip of incest (of course) and a slap in the face of the family unit; it also manages to shine a light on the notion that even celebrities are afflicted with the same insecurities and issues as us everyday folk (like Havana’s unashamed bout of constipation), and from a fashion point of view, dips in and out of ‘bad Hollywood glamour’ and aforementioned off-duty-yoga kit. Case in point – Havana. The stark contrast of Havana’s too-short-too-tight-too-young fashion choices screaming desperately of clinging to her waning youth, are worlds apart from Julianne Moore’s polished, age-appropriate red carpet fashion icon status. Here we take a look at the parallel fashion universes of Moore, and her character Havana.
Meanwhile, back to the plot… Havana decides she needs a new “chore whore” (aka personal assistant) and hires young burn victim Agatha after a bizarre connection through mutual friend Carrie Fischer (who makes a brief appearance sans Star Wars gold bikini) whom Agatha bizarrely befriended on Twitter before moving to Los Angeles. In ‘Maps’, Agatha is sporting a pitch-black past – and a fashion style to match. Her long black leather gloves and grey-to-black tonal style choices early in the film hide her scars, but also parallel the numbing-out effect that the bevy of meds she takes has on her deranged personality. As the meds are flushed down the toilet and Agatha’s psychosis returns, her banal fashion sense goes down the S-bend too and is replaced by far more skin (and scar) bearing outfits as she finally succumbs to her deeply disturbed urges.
Cusack features prominently as a TV celebrity-come-psychologist dealing in his own brand of ‘hands-on’ therapy (which sees Moore in her underwear and in compromising positions with Cusack on a regular basis – watch the movie to find out more!) with largely celebrity clientele. He owns this quirky role in the way only John Cusack could and dotes on his child-star son, Benjie, in an over-protective yet detached manner. Benjie – who is constantly throwing his toys out of the cot – is the epitome of spoilt celebrity brat who suffers from delusions (of grandeur and the hallucinogenic kind).
Incest is central, as is abuse, addiction, violence, manipulation and fear…all the things that Hollywood feeds off at its worst. The narrative is full of ghostly visions – mostly Havana’s dead star-of-the-screen mother – and smacks of Cronenberg’s view on the industry in the sense that our Hollywood silver-screen icons throughout the ages are central to this ‘collective psychosis’ we call Tinseltown. There are moments of dark humour from a script by Brace Wagner, but mostly ‘Maps’ is nightmare surrealism which borders too close to a docudrama of Hollywood culture for us to not sit up and take notice.