Hollyweird

05.18.14

Robert Pattinson’s Kinky Cannes Turn in David Cronenberg’s ‘Maps to the Stars’

The boundary-pushing Canadian filmmaker has reunited with the Twilight heartthrob for a bold evisceration of all things Hollywood.

Like 2012’s Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars is another Cannes competition entry by the veteran Canadian director that features Robert Pattinson having sex in a limousine. While that may seem like an unforgivably glib entry point for introducing Cronenberg’s scabrous evisceration of Hollywood mores, it’s nevertheless appropriate to cut to the salacious chase, especially since novelist Bruce Wagner’s script is anything but dainty. A satirical assault on Hollywood’s infatuation with success, youth, and New Age buncombe, Maps tackles sexual abuse, teenage drug addiction, show business backbiting, and incestuous longings with a scattershot sardonicism that prevents superficially pulpy material from degenerating into cartoonish melodrama.

Pattinson’s vehicular tryst with Julianne Moore, who plays the cheerfully neurotic actress Havana Segrand, crystallizes Cronenberg and Wagner’s preoccupation with fading glamour challenged by youthful impetuousness. Fearing herself over the hill, Havana yearns to star in the remake of a movie that proved a triumph for her late mother, Clarice Taggart. Pattinson’s Jerome Fontana, an aspiring actor and screenwriter who works as a limo driver, is a naïve young man quite willing to be corrupted by Hollywood decadence. Havana steals Jerome away from the waif-like Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska), a psychotic pyromaniac who arrives in Hollywood to cash in on her Twitter friendship with Carrie Fisher (playing herself) and ends up as Havana’s “chore whore,” aka personal assistant.

Although many other leading men could have pulled off Pattinson’s role as a randy chauffeur, the Twilight star acquits himself well enough...

Before long, not-so-innocent Agatha’s connection with the spectacularly dysfunctional Weiss family becomes clear. Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), the loopy paterfamilias, is a smarmy New Age guru known for hosting “Hour of Personal Power,” an inspirational television program that combines the worst aspects of Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey’s shtick. His son Benjie (Evan Bird), a precocious child star who has made a killing from heading up the teen movie franchise Bad Babysitter, is already in rehab at the age of 13.

Targeting Tinseltown’s endemic self-delusion, Cronenberg and Wagner depict Havana as the kind of woman who can gush about the Dalai Lama as a guy you’d want to “hang out” with while joyously celebrating the bad fortune of a rival actress. The monstrous Benjie, a kid that earns the “kind of money that would fuck up Mother Theresa,” boasts that he’s on the road to recovery before partaking of the latest designer drug. His nubile female companions think that anyone over 20 is more or less ancient and can’t conceive of any more damning insult than “menopausal.”

Maps to the Stars’ pungent dialogue and lack of sentimental posturing makes it intermittently entertaining, even though the insiderish swipes at Hollywood (everyone from Garry Marshall and Anne Hathaway to Chuck Lorre and Bernardo Bertolucci are disdainfully name-checked) lack the combination of pathos and invective achieved in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950), still the most moving, as well as the funniest, poison pen letter to Hollywood’s culture of narcissism.

Still, it’s undeniable that the film is savvily cast. Julianne Moore obviously relishes her role as a self-infatuated, and uninhibitedly constipated movie star; a scene where the incapacitated Moore exhorts her hapless personal assistant to run off and buy her a special laxative is one of the film’s scatological highlights. Although many other leading men could have pulled off Pattinson’s role as a randy chauffeur, the Twilight star acquits himself well enough in a rather underwritten part. In the film’s trickiest role, Wasikowska is responsible for some of the film’s few poignant moments. A disfigured, schizophrenic ingénue, she embodies a young woman whose unhealthy lust for her brother is tempered by the lush romanticism of the French surrealist poet Paul Éluard, whose haunting poem, “Liberty,” she periodically intones with hushed reverence throughout the film. In a world sullied by Hollywood’s ultra-cynicism, Éluard’s over-the-top romanticism imbues this bleak comedy with its only intimations of bona fide emotion.