Film review: Map To The Stars (18)

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At the end of the 1990 comedy Pretty Woman, as Julia Roberts and Richard Gere savour their fairy-tale romance, a nameless man strolls across a sidewalk and hollers to the hills.

“Welcome to Hollywood!” he bellows, “What’s your dream? Everybody comes here, this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t, but keep on dreamin’ - this is Hollywood.”

Mia Wasikowska and Julianne Moore.

Mia Wasikowska and Julianne Moore.

More than two decades later, that rose-tinted dream turns sour in David Cronenberg’s relentlessly grim satire of ambition, greed and dark familial secrets.

Precocious child stars bound for rehab and New Age healers are in Wagner’s sights as he laments the death of raw talent and berates the rise of the perfectly packaged commodity.

And they don’t come more lucrative than 13-year-old Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird), the pre-pubescent prince of the box office whose upwards trajectory is carefully managed by his mother Christina (Olivia Williams).

Back at home, Benjie’s father, self-help guru Dr Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), realigns the chakras of wealthy clientele including fame-hungry actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), who is pinning her resurgence on a remake of the film that made her mother, Clarice Taggart (Sarah Gadon), a star.

Havana hopes her friend Carrie Fisher (playing herself) might put in a good word with the director of the remake, indie wunderkind Damien Javitz (Gord Rand).

While Havana awaits news on the role, she employs a new personal assistant, a “disfigured schizophrenic” called Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), whose sardonic take on Hollywood attracts handsome limo driver Jerome Fontana (Robert Pattinson).

Maps To The Stars is anchored by Moore’s fearless and emotionally raw performance as a screen siren, who is haunted - literally - by the ghost of her more successful mother.

Wasikowska is similarly impressive as a daughter undone by the sins of her father and Pattinson continues to shove a stake through the heart of his image as a swooning teen dreamboat in the Twilight saga.

Screenwriter Wagner doesn’t always achieve smooth transitions between black comedy, drama and tragedy, and he tips the wink too early to the skeletons rattling in the Weiss family closet.

Rating: 3/5

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