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MAPS TO THE STARS (2014) ****

Maps to the Stars is David Cronenberg’s best film since Crash. It’s a hilarious, horrifying, audacious, outrageous, condemnation of crazed Hollywood types living and scheming in Tinseltown. It centers around a teenage star in rehab (Evan Bird), a self-help guru incapable of helping anyone (John Cusack), a cutthroat mother willing to do anything to help her son succeed (Olivia Williams), a limousine driver trying to sell a script (Robert Pattinson), and a past her prime actress struggling to make a comeback (Julianne Moore). When a scarred woman (Mia Wasikowska) comes to LA, it alters their lives forever.

The searing, twisted Bruce Wagner script is frequently hilarious. Cronenberg takes the black-hearted narrative and really sinks his teeth into it. With Maps to the Stars, he gets to shows a knack for comedy that usually goes untapped in his work. The dialogue and performances are vicious, clever, and funny, and his deadpan style perfectly fits the emotionally warped characters.

The film also happens to be an incredible showcase for some of the best actors working today. I mean, why didn’t someone think to put Julianne Moore in a David Cronenberg movie until now? I know she won an Oscar for Still Alice, but she really should've won for this. She tiptoes the line between parody and tragedy and gives an incredibly brave performance. Moore is truly fearless in this picture and is unafraid to look unglamorous and crazy. Honestly, how many times are you going to get a chance to see Julianne Moore take a shit in a movie?

Pattinson plays the most normal one of the group. Since he is essentially the moral compass, he’s not nearly as much fun. The underrated Olivia Williams has a great opportunity to tear into a meaty role. Although her part is smallish in comparison to everyone else, whenever she is on screen she hits it out of the park. I also had a blast seeing Cusack in this and thought it was pretty funny that there was a scene where he was vaping and wearing a black hat, just like he did in Drive Hard.

Also, I can’t tell you how cool it is to see Carrie Fisher playing herself in a David Cronenberg movie.

The only debit is the horrible CGI fire effect at the end that pretty much ruins the entire scene because it looks so fake. Remember the good old days when stunt people actually were set on fire for real? Other than that, this is a wickedly nasty black comedy that will have your jaw dropping multiple times.


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