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Cannes Day 5: ‘Maps to the Stars’

Staff Writer
Austin 360

David Cronenberg delivers a shocker with “Maps to the Stars.” It revisits dysfunctional family themes that were so present in the Canadian director’s earlier films, most notably 1988’s “Dead Ringers,” and it features a fine performance by Julianne Moore as a desperate, aging actress who’s trying to star in a remake of her famous mother’s film.

The only problem: Her late mother haunts her, primarily because of past sexual abuse.

But that’s not the biggest family dysfunction. The Weisses have her beat by a Hollywood mile. Papa Weiss (John Cusack) is a TV self-help guru with some big secrets. His wife Cristina (Olivia Williams) knows all about the secrets, but she’s trying to keep them from her teenage son Benjie (Evan Bird), who’s a child star getting out of rehab at the age of 13.

And then there’s big sister Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), who knows the truth about the family but has been sent away to a psychiatric institution in Florida. She’s just turned 18, and she’s headed home. Uh-oh.

It would be a huge spoiler to reveal the secrets, but let’s just say they’re big enough to make any family go asunder. And with Cronenberg at the helm, you just have to wait to see it all play out.

As the actress Havana Segrand, Moore excels at desperation amid self-absorbed trendiness. She’s constantly dispatching her personal assistant on errands to obtain various prescription drugs like Vicodin, but she always asks for something from Whole Foods at the same time. And a pack of cigarettes. That’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. This is Southern California, after all.

The satire works.

Cronenberg isn’t at the top of his game in “Maps to the Stars.” But it shows a return to form, especially after the disappointing “Cosmopolis” of 2012. Robert Pattinson, who starred in that movie, teams up with Cronenberg yet again in “Maps.” He plays a limousine driver who’s trying to break into acting. And he gets a bit role as a strange alien in a “Battlestar Gallactica” TV ripoff. He also gets more than he bargained for when he hooks up with Agatha, the crazy sister.

The tension comes from waiting for Agatha to go off the deep end. Big sis is a big mess, and she’s nobody’s gonna put baby in a corner.