David Cronenberg isn't typically one to disappoint (see: A History of Violence and A Dangerous Method for recent examples), and yet, Maps to the Stars, is, to be honest, Cronenberg at his worst. While attempting to combine what he's best at--psychological examination--with an overload of "subtlety," the film comes across as a hot tranny mess.
Centered around Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska) and her journey to Los Angeles from Jupiter (Florida), we soon realize that everything is connected to her, including washed up actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) and child star Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird), who we learn is her brother. Their parents, Cristina (Olivia Williams) and Stafford (John Cusack), add to the incest motif of the film in that they're brother and sister (though apparently they didn't know this before they were married).
Agatha's quick attachment to the limo driver she hires, Jerome (Robert Pattinson, in a typically frivolous role), is one of the early indications of her mental state--that, and her burn scars, which require her to wear elbow-length gloves at all times. Apparently on friendly terms with Carrie Fisher after conversing with her via the internet, Fisher recommends Agatha to Havana as an assistant. Havana, whose own sexually abusive actress of a mother died in a fire, is allured by Agatha for her "defects" and hires her on the spot.
The web of figurative incestuousness continues with Havana going to Stafford for psychological help with coming to terms with the visions she's been having of her mother. Visions are, indeed, a large aspect of Maps to the Stars--perhaps all relating back to the fact that you either have to be crazy to live in Los Angeles or you will become crazy as a result of living there. Benjie and Agatha, too, have visions of others, though, in Agatha's case, it's because she's a full-fledged schizophrenic.
As the plot goes on, the derangement of each character intensifies, with Agatha setting off the inner freak within everyone--even Havana, who was already slightly over the edge, yet somehow comes off as the most normal person in the film. Her tragic demise, in fact, is one of the most disappointing (though poetical) moments of the movie, as her fate was more interesting than anyone else's.
While Cronenberg and screenwriter Bruce Wagner offer certain kernels of wisdom and philosophy regarding the surreality of Hollywood, the story is ultimately a glorified Lifetime movie--and Cronenberg's talents deserve better than that. Julianne Moore on the other hand, well, let's not forget that she was in Body of Evidence before she won an Oscar.