A better title for this latest film from David Cronenberg would be “Shooting Fish in a Barrel,” as there is not one target of this tired satire of Hollywood that hasn’t been done to death too many times over. Every single character - the obnoxious addicted teen star, the middle-aged actress desperate to retain her valued perch, the fraudulent therapeutic huckster to the damaged over-privileged, the stage mother submerged in guilt and fear of losing the family’s cash cow, the schizoid arsonist who is the spawn of incest - is an over-the-top cliché that cries out for condemnation Of the writer and director, that is, not the characters themselves as they are simply exaggerations of cartoons that were stale forty years ago. Not one among them elicits any emotional reaction from us save disdainful incredulity.
To juice up this gallery of lifeless mummies, Bruce Wagner (writer) and Cronenberg have contributed such creative and imaginative fare as full frontal male masturbation; Julianne Moore on the toilet noisily pooping while pompously barking instructions to her assistant; gratuitous nudity; profanity and violence towards and by children and a sub-text of incest and child abuse, not to mention death by fire and water. Instead of brimstone, there is murder with a heavy Oscar-like award - wink, wink. Oddly, the one missing cliché was the absence of black or Hispanic employees being exploited onscreen by these nasty caucasions; perhaps this will rouse some objections from black performers who felt excluded by the old white men who are members of the Academy. There is of course, the mention of Moore’s former assistant who got fired for having a hundred children, one of whom was always sick.
It’s puzzling to see something this muddled, offensive and derivative come from the same man who directed The Fly and Dead Ringers - two excellent films dealing with exceptional circumstances and/or deviant people. I can only guess that the talented actors who perform in Map to the Stars took the parts in order to work with Cronenberg - without bothering to read the script. Notable among them are Moore, Mia Wasikowska and John Cusack who now have this schlock movie to stain their impressive resumes. Cronenberg, on the other hand, did read the script and deserves appropriate feedback so miss this both as a favor to yourself and an important message to its director.
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