Friday, 19 September 2014

REVIEW - MAPS TO THE STARS (DAVID CRONENBERG)


Between the heavenly highs of David Cronenberg's direction and the wretched lows of Bruce Wagner's script lies Earth; this heavenly high may be the fame that is so sought after or so resented, this wretched low the toll it takes on those unlucky enough to navigate it without their feet on the ground. And if that ground is somewhere on Earth, then that Earth is Hollywood in Maps to the Stars. Cronenberg vacates his heaven and ignores Wagner's hell and situates his film in banality, seeping Los Angeles of both its glamour or its tack. His nastily un-aestheticised film - his most unironically ugly to date - situates the characters in soulless close-ups in soulless spaces. And that's not a romanticised soullessness, that's a dispiriting soullessness - you leave Maps to the Stars with the impression that you've just witnessed a bunch of bores merely being boring. It's how Cronenberg has dismissed Wagner's bile, how he has left its fart jokes and period stains to stink out the rest of the film, how he has reduced histrionics to monotony that ought to hurt Hollywood the most. He even seems to have resigned his own, highly distinctive artistry. That indefinable insularity that is his signature has been overridden by his characters' collective narcissism, and he may never have produced a more potent thesis on the effects of individual psyches on family units yet. Wagner's screenplay is so rude it doesn't even know how to lash out well, flailing around trying to locate a cogent target. In only sporadically referencing an identifiable Hollywood, it strengthens the disassociation that is at the heart of what Cronenberg is striving for here. The only celebrity who dares show their face is Carrie Fisher; bloated and Botoxed beyond recognition, it's a viciously funny gag to see Julianne Moore struggle to stay convincing opposite her. One can imagine Cronenberg briefly descending from his high to join in this one select stinger, courtesy of Bruce Wagner's wretched low taste.