Truth be told, David Cronenberg's never been one to shy away from the darker extremities of the human condition.
But in Maps to the Stars , he just may have created his most twisted, dark and brutally funny satire yet.
The morally corruptive excesses and soulessly inflated egos of Hollywood and its desperate starlets have long been documented on-screen. So at first Maps to the Stars plot doesn't seem that unique.
A young girl steps off a Greyhound bus with illusions of star-studded grandeur after befriending Carrie Fisher on Twitter. An aging actress claws desperately at a career revival in a role that would see her play her own dead Hollywood icon of a mother. A tween star battles with addiction (and extreme douchiness) as his parents steer him towards his next multi-million dollar hit.
But it's in Cronenberg's bitter and often hilarious dissection of these archetypes, and the cold, sharp-tongued viciousness with which he explores their insecurities and arrogance that gives Maps to the Stars its comedy and its horror.
One by one, they all begin drowning in their own morally questionable quagmire, and it's an escalating extremism that lends itself to some stunning performances. Julianne Moore is, as ever, the hottest and messiest of Hot Hot Messes, expertly embodying the narcissicism, desperation and patheticness of a woman living in the shadow of her mother's glittering career. It's an emotionally cartwheeling, dazzling turn, as tragic and shocking as it is hilarious.
Similarly, Mia Wasikowska is carving out an intriguing and impressive niche in the 'beautiful unhinged nutjob' market (see also: Stoker ), Evan Bird convinces as a cruel and arrogant Justin Bieber-lite - as deranged by ego as the demons that haunt him, while Olivia Williams, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson support ably.
Along the way, every known taboo (and a few you'd probably never even contemplated) are broken, often with a breathtakingly black humour that illuminates the hideousness of the industry its pastiching.
Like all Stars, Cronenberg's latest glows brightly before flaring up for a spectacular burnout of an ending. And while it may not be the most balanced of Hollywood examinations, it is - fittingly enough - definitely one of the most addictive.
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