Maps of the Stars
starring Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, Evan Bird, Sarah Gadon, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson
screenplay by Bruce Wagner
directed by David Cronenberg
Describing this film is difficult, and so is commenting on it. It was hard to watch, but I thought it was a great story. Maps of the Stars is a 2014 dark satire about Hollywood, stardom, the hedonistic, amoral greed of the entertainment business and the people who occupy it. You get the picture. The film concerns the plight of child star Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird) and washed up actress Havana Segrand (Juliann Moore). Segrand is vying for the chance to play her own mother is a re-make of her mother’s greatest film. Her mother died in a fire years before and she may or may not have sexually abused her daughter. Even if she did not abuse Havana, Havana at least likes to think that she did - an invented memory - because it contributes to her role in the celebrity cosmos. Havana hires Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska) as a personal assistant without knowing who she is. Agatha is concealing her identity because of a dark past. Then, a younger actress is cast in the film re-make in her stead and Havana’s reaction is … revealing.
Through Evan and Havana we are treated to a menu of the depravity of Hollywood. Agatha is the estranged schizophrenic daughter of the Weiss family. After burning down the family home and trying to kill her younger brother in a pyromaniac/incestuous episode she is exiled to a Florida sanitarium. But as an adult she was released and secretly made her way back to L.A. The Weiss family is celebrity-obsessed. The parents control their actor son’s career as a “revenue stream” for the entire family. They are all completely nasty and evil people, but the kind of people the film industry tolerates so long as they are able to make money.
Evan’s father, Stafford (John Cusack) is a therapist to the stars. His mother, Cristina (Olivia Williams) is a controlling celebrity mom. The Weisses have a big secret. Stafford and Cristina are an incestuous couple - a brother and sister who were separated as infants, adopted and raised by different families who in adult life accidentally became a couple before realizing their genetic relationship. (Such occurrences, although rare, have actually happened.) So maybe their genetic mix contributed to their daughter’s schizophrenia. In any event the entire family is a really screwed up enterprise.
Agatha is a fairly normal person until she stops taking her meds. What else is a schizophrenic to do? If you’re schizophrenic you stop taking your meds. That’s the Hollywood script for schizophrenics. When that happens she turns into a psychopath again. She bludgeons Havana Segrand to death with her dead mother’s Golden Globe award. She will barely be missed, actually.
Even though Benjie is just a kid he’s a pompous egomaniac, and a 13-year-old recovering drug addict. But his studio promptly ejects him from his current film project - his family’s primary “revenue stream” - after he tries to strangle his even younger co-star during a fit of paranoid delusion. He’s got his family’s genes, after all.
Carrie Fisher has a cameo as herself. I like cameos. They’re fun.