TIFF 2014: Maps to the Stars Review

David Cronenberg is not only one of Toronto (nay, Canada)’s best filmmakers, he also happens to be a BFF of TIFF – with nearly all of his films premiering at our festival. With his newest peice he brings a darker tone than previous – and an amazing cast of characters matched only by the talents that the actors portraying them bring to the table. From John Cusack to Cannes-Best-Female Julianne Moore, the performances are outstanding, the plot is cerebrial (as to be expected from Cronenberg), and the film is a journey through the twisted mind of Hollywood.

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The story revolves around teenaged Agatha (the absolutely amazingly diverse Mia Wasikowska), returning to Hollywood after a traumatic event left her scarred both mentally and physically, to seek her own desperate closure with her spoiled-brat hollywood star brother Benjie (Evan Bird), oddball therapist father (John Cusack), and obsessively-controlling mother (Olivia Williams). Her life gets intertwined with aging hollywood starlet Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), who is struggling with her own past issues, and is haunted (both figuratively and literally) by her youthful, but deceased mother (Sarah Gadon). In a story that is anything but straitforward, we are offered a glimpse into the surreal lives of the not-entirely-sane world of Tinseltown.

While I am fully aware that Cronenberg did not write the screenplay, it seems clear to me that only Cronenberg could have brought this film to life without making it a dry parody black-comedy. Instead it is an intense film-noir, which offers no respite from the dark, moody drama that unfolds. Although, I do have to say I think the only casting mis-step is Robert Pattinson in the extremely minor role of boyfriend/limo driver – seems a little much like star-padding, for the sake of box-office success. He is fine in the role (American accent and all), but seems to me an unnecessary play.

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On the other hand, Julianne Moore gives absolute knock-out performance unlike anything else she’s ever done. What I hope not at all inspired from her own personal career, she provides the most realistic person in this film. While everyone else seems to be existing within their own heads, she takes the very same concept and portrays a desperate, aging, spoiled actress into a likable almost sympathetic character. While I couldn’t help but seeing a mature version of Lindsay Lohan in her performance – I certainly hope that I’m not the only one hoping that there arent actually any human females like this person in real life – but knowing full well that I am wrong.

 

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