Cannes Film Festival
David Cronenberg returned to the festival with his bleak Hollywood tale "Maps to the Stars." The lead performers are John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska, Julianne Moore (Best Actress winner at Cannes!), Sarah Gadon and a young Evan Bird. The performer getting all the attention on the Red Carpet was Robert Pattinson, here making his second performance in a Cronenberg picture (after "Cosmopolis" from Cannes 2012 and the Freudian drama "A Dangerous Method" which debuted at Venice in 2011).
The script is by novelist and screenwriter Bruce Wagner, and it provides a skewed look at obnoxious and petulant child stars, the fatuous nature of self-help gurus, and the deeply neurotic and spiritually vacuous nature of life in Hollywood.
Much like "Cosmopolis," Cronenberg and his cinematographer craft a cold (some are saying "sterile") look to the film. In the last two films we've got Pattinson in a limo, but where in "Cosmopolis" he was the center of both the visual frame and the film's entire plot, here he's a limo driver, showing Mia W.'s character around as she reacquaints herself with life in L.A.
There is one major celebrity playing themselves (Carrie Fisher, no less), but the film never feels like Altman's "The Player" with its cavalcade of famous people.
The story is one of manipulation and heartache, with a bit of the supernatural thrown in just to keep things a bit weird. While I personally didn't love the film, it's most certainly the work of a true artist, one completely in control of his craft and still willing to push at the boundaries of storytelling. If it doesn't come together in the end, it remains very much a film to be contended with, even suggesting that Cronenberg is in that relatively rare pantheon of directors who should have all their work seen regardless of the sensibilities of a given release.
The ensemble is, for the most, part terrific. Julianne Moore is often called "fearless," but suffice it to say that she holds nothing back in this role, crafting a squirming and at times boorish character that still (thanks very much to Julianne's own charms) avoids becoming so obnoxious that the audience turns on her.
A scarred Mia W. brings the right level of cool, and Pattinson continues to impress, clearly moving on from his more populist films into challenging and provocative roles. Whether or not this makes RP a kind of "De Niro" muse for Cronenberg remains to be seen, but for now it's nice to see him continue to stretch himself with his role selection.
The film saw mixed reviews from Cannes -- while I didn't like it for some of the reasons I listed above, some found it to be remarkable and insightful, while others who did not enjoy Cronenberg's previous film were simply enervated that it surpasses "Cosmopolis."
For a filmmaker that staunchly continues to make films in Toronto, bringing talent from all over the world to experience the excellence of local crews, many take Cronenberg for granted in Canada, while throughout the cinema world he's a prime auteur.
While "Maps" is unlikely to garner any major awards, it's still considered by many a top-tier film in contention, one that may have divided critics but should certainly find a boisterous audience that will fall for its charms.
"Maps to the Stars" will get a Canadian (and North American) release date at some point in 2014. There is no official trailer available for this movie at the time of this writing.