Acolytes of body horror master David Cronenberg will be hoping for a late career revival when his new film, 2014’s Maps to the Stars, has its grand unveiling at Cannes this May, particularly after the joint disappointment of 2011 psychoanalysis drama A Dangerous Method and the overly faithful Cosmopolis (2012). Enlisting A-List stars Mia Wasikowska, Julianne Moore, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson, the film sets itself up as an acerbic portrait of celebrity competition and madness in the shallow waters of Hollywood. Dr. Stafford Weiss (the ever-sleazy Cusack) is a self-help guru while his wife, Christina (Olivia Wilde), manages the career of an obnoxious millionaire child star, Benjie (Evan Bird), who has just checked out of a stint in a drug rehab clinic and is ready to get back into acting.
Add to this scarred face pyromaniac Agatha (Wasikowska), hired by Moore’s ageing actress Havana and Pattinson’s limo driver/wannabe actor, Jerome – who seems to have something in the game as well. Perhaps unsurprisingly given its hostile view of the Hollywood lifestyle and celebrity culture, the film has been in development hell for years with, at one stage, Viggo Mortensen and Rachel Weisz both attached. Written by Wild Palms scribe Bruce Wagner, progress was so torturous that Wagner actually adapted his own screenplay into novel form, publishing it under the title Dead Stars. Wagner’s anger and Cronenberg’s hankering for the bizarre looks like a good combination. What’s more, the Canadian renown still thankfully proves a draw for big name actors looking to take a walk on the filmic wild side.
Violence, perversion and a satirical eviscerating of tinsel town look to be on the menu, but perhaps a word of caution. A Dangerous Method – with its heady mix of Freud, Jung and sadomasochism – looked like a wonderfully subversive fit and had a similarly impressive cast, but ended up being a relatively pedestrian dawdle for such an expressionistic filmmaker. Let’s just hope that Cronenberg has rediscovered his more subversive tendencies and gives more than a few Hollywood types reason to squirm when Maps to the Stars is eventually unveiled.
David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars will play in competition at this year’s 67th Cannes Film Festival.