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'Maps to the Stars' review: David Cronenberg takes on Hollywood in excessive, funny film

Robert Pattinson appears in a scene from

Robert Pattinson appears in a scene from "Maps to the Stars." Photo Credit: AP / Daniel McFadden

Hollywood may be a fun-house mirror, but it's still a mirror, and what emanates from it, either on screen or the pages of US Weekly, is a warped reflection of what passes as standard social decorum in these United States. Still, director David Cronenberg's "Maps to the Stars" -- which wallows in the excess of present-day Tinseltown (though Bruce Wagner's script dates back 20 years to his days as a chauffeur for the Beverly Hills Hotel) -- is in many ways more depressing than outrageous, because the more outrageous it gets, the more it feels like a program on E!

Cronenberg, a Hollywood outsider and a Canadian to boot, has always been in thrall to cultural pathologies, and one can sense him having a field day with the characters he's assembled for "Maps to the Stars" (a movie no one seemed eager to touch when it played the Toronto International Film Festival last fall). Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), clearly a font of trouble, arrives in Hollywood, with no visible means of support. Despite that, she hires a car and a driver named Jerome (Robert Pattinson), a would-be actor thinking of joining the Church of Scientology as a career move. Benjie (Evan Bird) is a loathsome, privileged child star trying to recapture his fading glory, and whose parents (John Cusack, Olivia Williams) should be arrested. Havana Segrand (an edgy, antic Julianne Moore in a performance light years from the Oscar-winning "Still Alice") is looking to score a part in a remake, the same role her mother played in the original, before Mom died in a fire.

Agatha goes to work for Havana, all the characters intersect, and a catalog of crimes, both legal and moral, are committed. Cronenberg's purpose in doing all this is a bit vague -- turn on the television and there are humans being celebrated for virtually the same behavior he's lampooning. But, of course, that's the point, however dulled it's become.

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