For a good long while now, David Cronenberg hasn’t been himself. Very few of his recent works have been nearly as twisted as you’d expect from the filmmaker, nor have they been particularly well received. You probably have to go back to A History of Violence and Eastern Promises to find the last time a movie of his hasn’t been overall some kind of a disappointment. Has that changed over at the Cannes Film Festival with his latest effort Maps to the Stars? Well, yes and no. Essentially, he’s divided audiences with his new film, but many are saying it’s somewhat of a return to his bizarre older form, or at least the closest thing in some time. Starring John Cusack, Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, and Mia Wasikowska, this Hollywood satire of sorts at least sounds like it won’t be boring.
Here’s a sampling of the reviews:
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian loved it:
David Cronenberg’s new film here at Cannes is a gripping and exquisitely horrible movie about contemporary Hollywood – positively vivisectional in its sadism and scorn. It is twisted, twisty, and very far from all the predictable outsider platitudes about celebrity culture. The status-anxiety, fame-vertigo, sexual satiety and that all-encompassing fear of failure which poisons every triumph are displayed here with an icy new connoisseurship, a kind of extremism which faces down the traditional objection that films like this are secretly infatuated with their subject. Every surface has a sickly sheen of anxiety; every face is a mask of pain suppressed to the last millimetre. It is a further refinement of this director’s gifts for body horror and satire.
Eric Kohn of indieWIRE gives it a B+ in his mostly positive review:
Aided to a large degree by a grimly amusing script by novelist Bruce Wagner riddled with scathing caricatures, Cronenberg’s followup to 2012’s “Cosmopolis” (and the first project by the Canadian director shot in the United States) does a far better job of skewing capitalism’s discontents by exploring their manifestations in the American movie business. While not the director’s canniest piece of filmmaking, it’s unquestionably his angriest, politically motivated achievement. Every missive hits its target hard with a comedy-horror combo aimed squarely at the kind of commercial stupidity that Cronenberg has avoided throughout his 45-year career. Now we know why.
Oliver Lyttelton of The Playlist also gives it a B+ in his own more positive than not review:
Real talk: it’s been quite a while since David Cronenberg made something truly satisfying. “Cosmopolis” has a few defenders, “A Dangerous Method” not so much, and while there’s stuff to like in “Spider,” “A History Of Violence” and “Eastern Promises,” all felt compromised to some degree or other. Indeed, the truly unfiltered Cronenberg picture, one where bits fall off people or people try to have sex with orifices not traditionally used for any sexual act, seems like something of a distant memory at this point.
But good news is here, because the Canadian director’s latest, “Maps To The Stars,” just premiered at Cannes, and while it’s substantially different from the “Videodrome”s and “Crash”es of the world, and probably rather more disposable, it’s certainly the director’s most twisted, and as a consequence, most deliciously entertaining film, in quite a long while.
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter is more negative than positive:
Throughout his prolific 45-year career, Canadian director David Cronenberg had never before gone south of the border to film anything in Hollywood until lured by Bruce Wagner’s original script for Maps to the Stars. Even at that, he only spent a week there to cover exteriors, but it was enough to provide an honest backdrop to this luridly over-the-top tale of toxic familial relations, out-of-control egos and the past continuing to haunt the present. Some of the very black humor and snarky insider quips hit the bull’s eye and Julianne Moore, in particular, gives her all for the occasion. But the unmodulated and overweening bile is reminiscent of the severely negative films about Hollywood from the 1970s, such as Myra Breckinridge, Alex in Wonderland and The Day of the Locust, and it’s unlikely this one will have any better a box-office fate.
Peter Debruge of Variety didn’t care for it at all:
Somehow, it’s more interesting to watch dreamers struggling to play stars (check out Pia Zadora in “The Lonely Lady” for a real Tinseltown takedown) than it is for Oscar nominees to parody the desperate, which is pretty much what Julianne Moore is doing in a fearless performance far more gonzo than the out-of-touch satire that contains it. Like Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” before it, the film opens in France the day of its Cannes Film Festival premiere and will likely fare better there than in the States, where eOne is also releasing.
Here are some reactions from Twitter:
Maps to the Stars – Um WTF. Can’t tell if Cronenberg is making fun of Hollywood, or strangely seduced by its fakeness. Nothing in this film.
— Alex Billington (@firstshowing) May 18, 2014
MAPS TO THE STARS is a disaster of a script but effective as scattered treatise on fame and insanity. I liked COSMOPOLIS more. #CANNES2014
— Jordan Hoffman (@jhoffman) May 18, 2014
— Sam Adams (@SamuelAAdams) May 19, 2014
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!