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David Cronenberg’s Map to the Stars: threesomes, incest, a dead dog and whiny farts

1 October 2014

4:41 PM

1 October 2014

4:41 PM

In a scene that sticks from Map to the Stars, David Cronenberg’s Grand Guignol of a Hollywood satire, Julianne Moore, playing an ageing Hollywood never-has-been, sits on the loo in front of her PA, expelling tired whiny farts from her arse, while listing – her trout pout doing its best impression of a quivering anus – the names of the laxatives and prescriptive drugs she needs as if they were old friends. Except she doesn’t have any friends; the only people she knows are casting directors who don’t call back.

And it’s no wonder Havana Segrand’s bodily functions have stalled (surely a first for Cronenberg). Not only is she plagued by visions of her dead mother, a cult actress who died in a fire, but her therapist, John Cusack – ever brilliant and a dead ringer for David Guest these days – seems to be an alumnus of the same school of self-help as Patrick Swayze in Donnie Darko or Tom Cruise in Magnolia.

Her hallucinations could well be caused by her attempts to resurrect her career by starring in the remake of the film that made her mother famous. But her therapist’s too busy massaging her thighs in search of childhood trauma to suggest that. His own family is playing up too: his wife, glacial tiger mom Olivia Williams, seems on permanent edge of a nervous breakdown and his son, a child star who makes Justin Bieber look balanced, is hurtling towards his second.


So far, so Hollywood. But everyday life is disrupted by the arrival of Mia Wasikowska’s Agatha, an out-of-town ingenue with mysterious scars who, through a chance meeting with Carrie Fisher, gets a job as Havana’s PA, or rather her ‘chore whore’. It says something that among the denizens of Hollywood, a ‘disfigured schizophrenic’ comes across as relatively normal – even though she’s clearly up to something. And quicker than you can smash in someone’s skull with a Golden Globe statuette, there’s a threesome, some incest and a dead dog.

Sounds bonkers, doesn’t it? And it also sounds like a jacked up version of Sunset Boulevard, All About Eve, The Bling Ring, Mulholland Drive, every screen adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis and any other take on the bitter edge of fame. Word of warning too: the title sounds dangerously similar to another film on at the moment, the young adult cancer weepy, The Fault in Our Stars. I spent most of the immolation scene hoping no poor viewers had wandered in by mistake.

Cronenberg and screenwriter Bruce Wagner seem to be playing a game of consequences, confident that even if they tell the truth, we won’t believe them. But believe the excesses of Hollywood or not, who cares? This salutary tale will only hit home if you’re the latest recruit to the Mickey Mouse Club. In an age of YouTube and Twitter, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and their ilk are yesterday’s blog post.

The gleeful casting against type gives the film zing. It’s fun to see card carrying Democrat, gay-rights activist, natural beauty and all round goody-goody Moore playing a washed-up scrubber. Her overwrought performance is tremendous and provides heart amid the horror. But though she looks over a decade younger than 53, I couldn’t help thinking she wasn’t quite fake enough to convince. You can’t gurn that hard with Botox.


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