Monday, March 2, 2015

Review and Interpretation: Maps to the Stars (2014)

Copyright: Entertainment One
David Cronenberg is clearly very smart, but this special kind of intelligence of his allows him to examine both the current and future world. Back in 1983 he envisioned a TV audience glued to the scenes of death and torture, backed up by a weird financial system which provides the same entertainment to the masses for profit and kicks. Today, in the era when burnings and beheadings present the main fuel for global Breaking News segments, Cronenberg emerges as a dark prophet of our own even darker nature.

In Maps to the Stars movie, he gutters the notion of child celebrities and the wider arena of Hollywood showbiz. The story of this truly scary film begins with a young girl arriving in Los Angeles, apparently shielded by total anonymity. In the same town, Benjie Weiss, a child actor and a superstar is on a strict sobriety regime enforced by his team of parents and agents, in spite of the fact that he is only 13 years old. Of course, this doesn’t stop him from being a total egocentric jerk.

Not far away, an aging actress is desperate to do anything so that she can secure the role of her own abusive mom in a new version of the mother’s decades-old classic and celebrated film. As the stories converge, so does the madness grow on the margins of this glittering world, along with the promise of a violent and nihilistic culmination.

Maps to the Stars is a perfect movie, delivered and executed like almost nothing before it that tells a tale set in the world of Hollywood, especially with this kind of strange and counterintuitive topic. The filmmaking of David Cronenberg is hard to explain but simple to experience. He presents his characters in a raw form, yelling in agony or joyful celebrating a child’s accidental death because it brought them some unexpected benefit. Just a minute or two later, he shows a young girl covered with the blue ink of a star map, reciting a poem both beautiful and haunting.

In his lens, all actors are perfect masters of their skill. Younger cast members, like Mia Wasikowska and Evan Bird, hold the promise of redemption and youth that might overcome the horrible secrets of their predecessors.

Older ones, like Julianne Moore and John Cusack, provide his film with substance and true wickedness, which is not brought about by emotions, but sheer opportunism. I was especially impressed by Cusack, who created a character equal to Frank T.J. Mackey from the movie Magnolia (which is the closes thing to Maps to the Stars I can remember).

Cronenberg made a film that is a eulogy of perceived celebrity glamour and innocence, sang by mesmerizing voices that are not afraid to poke holes in their own fragile skin and reveal the hideous tumors beneath. Like Nightcrawler, it doesn’t want to compromise or tranquilize the impact of its presentation or ideas. Because of this, it’s a masterpiece of enormous weight.

Maps to the Stars Movie Explained

Spoiler Alert

In my view, the key element of the meaning of the film Maps to the Stars is the lethality of parental decisions and secrecy that follows them. In the story of both families (Weiss and Segrand), the decisions of the parents, made for personal gain or pleasure, end up heavily impacting the next generation.

Havana Segrand is haunted by the abuse she felt as a child and contributes it to her mother, although it was committed by her stepfather (as explained in the massage by the pool ghost sequence). Havana is in a desperate need to connect with her mother, even if it means blaming her for what she didn’t do (but was most likely aware on some level). At the same time, she desires to become her mother, just like Agatha Weiss desired to become wed to her brother Benjie.

After she found out the family secret, she desperately wanted to emulate their parents, who are also brother and sister, but added the fire into the equation as a final element that can cleans them all of this transgression, possibly  before they evolve into the horrible, calculated creatures their parents were even back then. Benjie, as a small child, just goes along with it all, but later clearly understands why Agatha did what she did, and goes along with it once more.

In this sense, the explanation to the Maps to the Stars is the idea of younger generations living in the sins of their parents (like Havana) or trying to cleanse these sins in themselves (like Agatha and Benjie end up doing). In both cases, the resolutions are either horrible life of suffering and greed (Havana) or an exit from the world of living altogether (Agatha and Benjie).