Maps to the Stars – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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Overview

The lives of one seriously messed up family, and one washed up actress, are explored as mental illness, and a bad attitude, ruins their careers.

Review (with Spoilers)

I cannot fully remember how I found out about this movie, so I can only assume I saw the name of it on IndieWire. With that said, there are a lot of recognizable faces amongst the cast, such as Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, and John Cusack, who all perform their very eccentric characters in such a way that is perplexing, to say the least. Now, as for whether their performances lead you to believe the film is worth your time or not, look below.

Characters & Story

The three main storylines are: Havana Segrand’s (Julianne Moore) which deals with an actress who desperately wants to be in the remake of her mother’s biggest film, perhaps in pursuit of closure; one young woman named Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), trying to make amends with Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), Havana’s reiki therapist; and one child star named Benjie (Evan Bird) who feels this new kid Roy (Sean Robertson), is stealing his spotlight.

But what the overall film is about is the two actors, Havana and Benjie, making a comeback. For with Havana seemingly losing the roles she wants to due to her age, and perhaps her personality too, she finds herself losing her mind to the point she is seeing her mother Clarice (Sarah Gadon), and is forced to face that maybe what she thought happened in the past didn’t. As for Benjie, he too is haunted by ghosts from his past. For as the stress of staying sober meets the stress of a life seemingly forced on him by his parents Cristina (Olivia Williams) and Stafford, we see a girl he met, Cammy (Kiara Glasco), haunt him. Then, on top of all that, a face he wasn’t expecting to see again reappears who brings up bad memories.

Praise

When it comes to this film, I feel you must praise Moore and Bird for they play utterly unlikable characters, due to how much they fit many people’s idea of the stereotypical celebrity, and yet they don’t make their characters a pain to watch. This is accomplished through them having some form of mastery over their depiction of having schizophrenia, as well as Moore’s depiction of Havana possibly having depression and issues which may have stemmed from sexual abuse. For while mental illness depictions in movies can either lead to over the top performances, or depressing comedies, arguably Havana is performed with just enough human qualities to make it seem like Moore wanted her to be someone who struggled with mental disorders vs. someone so wholly consumed that Havana could only be seen a caricature.

Then, when it comes to Bird as Benjie, while his character is much more difficult to like, in comparison to Havana, through his interactions with Agatha and Cammy, as well as noting his relationship with his parents, there is this sense that as despicable as he seems, he may more so be coping than acting out because he can. After all, it seems his family’s wealth might have come from his success. So imagine the pressure he is under so his mom has work and his dad’s career, as some sort of motivational speaker, outside of him being a reiki therapist, isn’t tainted by his son collapsing under the pressure he’s under.

Criticism

I want to note that this is the type of film which, based off the first ten to twenty minutes, you think is going to be awful. This is mostly due to no character really being presented as likable, Wasikowska as Agatha being a bit of a bore, at first, and Benjie being the type of kid you want so badly to get smacked by somebody, anybody, just because the way he acts is like how people often talk about Justin Bieber. Though perhaps my real problem with this movie is that I am not completely sure what writer Bruce Wagner was trying to say with this film. Is he trying to show the worse possible ways people can deal with their own issues, which usually includes taking out their anger, pain, and frustration on others? Is this supposed to be a serious parody, if such a sub-genre exists, on celebrity culture? Or is the point of the film simply to show what happens to a person when they are exploited, or disregarded, to the point where desperation sinks in?

Either way, I feel as interesting of a take the film has on mental illness, I’m unsure, if you want to be politically correct, if we are supposed to take the character’s various issues seriously or not. Especially Cristina’s since, outside of it being established she is Benjie’s mother and manager, I feel we don’t get to learn hardly a thing at all about her. Making it where when we see her crying hysterically, or watch her final scene in the film, none of it makes sense.

Overall: TV Viewing

I see some talk about Moore getting nominated for major awards for this movie, and honestly, if she does I guess she will get nominated for the same reason Cate Blanchett was for Blue Jasmine. More so because of her body of work than the film itself. And while I did note Wasikowska was a bit of a bore at first, truly her character can be considered a stimulant for the film. Especially for Benjie for with her revealing a few things she knows about his parents, as well as how she got her burns, it sets his story in motion. As for Havana, I think what Agatha does for Havana is remind us she was possibly normal once. Something which greatly helps the character become more than a selfish, and childish, prick.

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