David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars is one of those rare Hollywood satires that eviscerates it’s characters with merciless relish and little sympathy for the fading actresses, movie brats, and the cultural cesspool of Tinseltown. 

MTTS_00829.NEF

Story by Rumnique Nannar.

As evidenced by the many walkouts at the screening I went to, this film will likely be very divisive for viewers who are unprepared for the cruelty, self-destruction, incest, and insecurities that Cronenberg and screenwriter Bruce Wagner lay bare.

Julianne Moore delivers a raging performance as Havana Legrand, an neurotic actress past her prime lobbying for the role in a remake of a 50s melodrama starring her mother Clarice (Sarah Gadon), whom she believes abused her with the help of the pontificating self-help quack Stafford Weiss (John Cusack). We also meet Stafford’s son Benji (Evan Bird), a Bieber-esque brat who is fresh from rehab and doling insults with his mother (Olivia Williams), as they try to avoid their connection to Havana’s new assistant, the burned and troubled Agatha (Mia Wasikowska).

It’s a funny film with Cronenberg’s signature cool detachment and Wagner’s insider knowledge of the vagaries of the rich and famous in Hollywood. Every character is irredeemable and everyone wears a grotesque mask off-screen, which makes it perhaps a tough and toxic film to watch. With Julianne Moore in the film, it’s easy for others to get blown off-screen, but Wasikowska provides an icy counterpoint to Moore’s gonzo character. Cusack, Williams and Bird are terrific in their roles as the demonic dysfunctional family from hell.

Beneath the gallows humour, there’s a true existentialist horror throughout, as screenwriter Wagner conjures ghosts and lost souls that haunt these characters who are beset by toxic career panic and abuse. Maps to the Stars is a deeply funny and dark look at Hollywood that isn’t for the faint at heart.

Lookout for Maps to the Stars in theatres in 2015.