Map to the Stars

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This Catch Up is written by Telaina Eriksen

Year of Release: 2015

Rating: R (for sexual content, nudity, and general fucked-upness)

Currently Streaming on Netflix? No

Spoilers? Nope

I don’t know how Maps to the Stars ended up in my DVD queue on Netflix. I saw a trailer? Someone recommended it to me? The movie came in the mail to me August 20, 2015 and quite frankly between work, family, and a lot of personal stuff going on, I forgot it was here. This week I was like “Oh shit. I forgot I do the ‘two DVDs a month Netflix’ thing with my streaming and I’ve had a movie here since August.” I was able to watch the movie last night and I. Loved. It. I didn’t realize until the credits ran at the beginning it was a David Cronenberg movie. One of my favorite Jeremy Irons’ movies is Dead Ringers, which is also a David Cronenberg film. And while Dead Ringers is fabulous (and even a warped and twisted version of sexy), it is also WAY disturbing, so I was glad I caught Cronenberg’s name so I could brace myself for the fucked-upness that was about to be on the screen.

The movie opens with Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) coming to California—we don’t know who she is and we don’t know if she is lying or telling the truth when she tells her limo driver Jerome Fontana (Robert Pattinson) that she is close, personal friends with Carrie Fisher. As the movie unfolds, we realize that Agatha is the schizophrenic daughter of Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) and Christina Weiss (Olivia Williams) and sister of Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird). Through Carrie Fisher, Agatha becomes personal assistant to Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) and Havana is a client of self-help guru and pseudo-psychotherapist Stafford Weiss.

Much of what follows could be seen as shallow Hollywood tropes. Now, as much I love movies, I don’t know Hollywood, and God willing, I never will. I am very much a person of place and my place is overall, Michigan (though I am willing to negotiate this when I retire. Especially in the months December through March). When I was younger I remember being quite star-struck by movie stars but now at 47, I realize that stars are just people. And a lot of times, not very nice people. I certainly wouldn’t say no to taking a selfie with Chris Hemsworth, but I would be far too lazy to go up and ask him for one. So mostly what I know of Hollywood culture comes from books and movies and what people have told me. This film seems to hit some of those stereotypes—the aging actress (Havana Segrand), the drug-addled child star (Benjie Weiss) with the controlling mother (Christina Weiss), and the false self-help idol (Stafford Weiss) helping stars fell less guilty and more entitled about their place of privilege in American society. What makes the movie rise about those stereotypes (and how much do I love this?) is a poem. The poem is the cadence, the anthem of this movie. It is repeatedly repeated.

On my school books

On my desk and trees

On the sand and snow

I write your name

 

On all pages read

On all white pages

Stone sand paper or ashes

I write your name

 

On the jungle and desert

On the nests and gorses

On the echo of my childhood

I write your name

 

On the marvels of nights

On the white bread of days

On the married seasons

I write your name

 

On the fields on the horizon

On the wings of birds

And on the mill of shadows

I write your name

 

On each puff of dawn

On the sea on the boats

On the demential mountain

I write your name

 

On health regained

On risk that is no more

On hope without memories

I write your name

 

And by the strength of one word

I start over my life

I was born to know you

To name you

 

Liberty.

-Paul Eluard.

Now if you know a little bit of this poem’s history, this movie goes from being “Gosh, this version of Hollywood is creepy” to a poised and controlled message about mental illness, dysfunctional families, and the authenticity of human beings. Eluard’s poem was dropped in leaflet form in World War II over Nazi Germany. With that little historical detail, the storyline, the poem and the march of the characters each to their own personal horrific fate expand far beyond a satire of Hollywood and journey into the Jungian darkness of the human soul.

Not a feel-good, fun movie, readers. But don’t miss this one.

 

 

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