Most people’s favourite movies centre around a character they can relate to, respect or have a feeling of affection for. However, every now and then a movie comes along that is populated by, well, cunts. Which brings us to Maps to the Stars, the latest movie by the brilliant David Cronenberg and a satirical look at the world of Hollywood and the nature of celebrity. It’s a film that will make you laugh, horrify you and which I imagine many will take against (at least a few people walked out of the screening I was in), however, it is also full of thoroughly unlikable characters.
By unlikable, I mean truly unlikable. Many movies have grotesque people, who we are introduced to us by an avatar, someone we can relate to. However, that is not the case in Maps to the Stars, the person we see the majority of the movie through, Mia Wasikowska’s Agatha, is as mental as the characters around her. Whether that be Julianne Moore’s Havana Segrand, who is attempting to gain the central role in a remake of a movie her mother won an academy award for, before her early death and is quite frankly insane. Moore plays it to perfection and if this movie wasn’t quite as biting a critique on Hollywood as it is, then I think she would be in line to win an Academy Award. Or Robert Pattinson’s (continuing his fruitful relationship with Cronenburg) Jerome Fontana, a limousine driver desperate to find his way into the wonders of tinsel town. They are all genuinely horrible and yet I enjoyed this movie. I laughed at them and did not leave with the sour taste in my mouth you might expect.
A similar example of this is the recent Wolf Of Wall Street, a film that listeners to BBC radio film show, Wittertainment, will know film critic Mark Kermode took against because Jordan Belfort was a bit of a dick. While i didn’t take against that film in the same way, he made a good point. Belfort was unlikable and didn’t get punished at the end and I think this is where Maps to the Stars gets things right. While these character live these ridiculous lives, every single one of this is at the core of their being, pretty damn miserable. Evan Bird’s Bieber esque Benjie Weiss may have more money than any child could ever need and be able to boss around people 3 times his age, but it doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day he’s a miserable little shit.
By making Maps to the Stars punish those that we dislike, Cronenberg has been able to make a film full of despicable people and yet also make it enjoyable. It is not a movie that has any warmth or happiness at its centre, but in the murky, horrible world that it creates, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had. These characters are ridiculous and by letting us laugh at them, it turns what could be a very unlikable movie ,into something you can enjoy and yet still at the centre of it has a point. It’s a harsh look at the current nature of celebrity and while there is no denying that we don’t exactly lack those at this time, it is well enough done that that is not an issue.