2015年4月7日 星期二

Maps to the Stars (墮落星圖)

Hollywood is often viewed by the uninitiated as a place of dreams of stardom, glamor and gossip. But if one may trust in David Cronenberg's portrayal of the Weiss family in Maps to the Stars (2014), its glittering chrome and glass surface lit by multi-color LED lights may well be a cover for a designer's hell full of incestuous demons, whose occupants are each desperate to escape from their unspeakably dark past and cut-throat present into fame, money, sex, drugs and verbal vitriol, driven largely by another incestuous circle of greed, lust and jealousy and mutual hypocrisy.

What do a girl with a scarred face and scarred arms from Florida, Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), a rich middle aged woman movie star with fading charms Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) eager to get the part to play her deceased mother, another well known movie star Kayla (Emilia McCarthy) who died in a fire, a cab driver who earns his living as a part time actor and has hopes of becoming a screen writer, Jerome Fontana (Robert Pattinson ), a successful actress, novelist, screenwriter and an agent for actor and actresses who runs a blog, Carrie Fisher (who plays herself), a successful pop psycho-therapist who frequently gives talks, appears on TV shows, who treats people with various kinds of mental and emotional dysfunction at USD1,000 an hour and is about go on tour for his new 12 part self-help book Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), a 13-year-old boy star who is the principal character in a popular TV series called "Bad Babysitter" who dispenses non-stop verbal abuses to those who work with him and who's just back from a private de-tox program and shows absolutely no courtesy to pink press TV reporters Benjie (Evan Bird) and a mother who treats her son as a precious commodity to be exploited for maximum profit, Christina (Olivia Williams) have to do with each other? The link is Agatha. She falls in love with Jerome, through her internet connection with Carrie, becomes the personal assistant of Havana  and is in fact the daughter of Dr. Weiss and Christina, who themselves are brother and sister though they claim they only found that out after they are married. 
When the film opens we see Agatha coming to LA apparently for the first time. She calls a cab and asks to visit the site of a burnt down house belonging to the famous Weiss family and got talking to the cab driver Jerome who tells her that he is writing a novel and hopes that one day, he'll make it as a screenwriter. Then through her facebook connection with Carrie Fisher, who is the agent of Benjie and Havana, whose personal assistant has to leave because of a family tragedy, Agatha attends a fruitful interview as Havana replacement personal assistant. Then we see the yoga meditation practitoner Havana receiving treatment from Dr. Weiss during which he rubs her naked back and urges her to conquer the image of her mother Kayla (Emila McCarthy) a famous star under whose shadow she always lives. Yet at the same time, she covets a role to play Kayla in competition with Azita Wachtel (Jane Heitmeyer ) whose son is co-starring with Benjie in the latter's popular TV series. Agatha secretly meets 13-year-old Benjie, whom she has not met in 7 years since she started the fire which caused the Weiss house to be burned down and has thereafter been in rehabilitation. She has come to renew their childhood "play" of a "make-believe wedding" as imaginary husband and wife with Benjie. When she visits Dr. Weiss to apologize and "make amends" , she is nearly pounded to death by her father because he says she has caused enough damage to his family and will not allow her to ruin them again. He is stopped by Christina who sobs uncontrollably. Agatha is forced to leave and falls into a depression. When Dr. Weiss returns home after some work, he finds Christina all ablaze in front of the swimming pool.  He pushes Christina's fiery body into the swimming pool. When Agatha returns to Havana's house after a week, she finds Havana making love with Jerome at the back of her limousine. Before doing so, she asks Jerome if she is more beautiful than Agatha's, her skin smoother and her hole better. After she's done, Havana scolds Agatha for leaving without any prior notice and then in the middle of her scolding, when a trickle of Agatha's menstrual blood leaks on to the surface of the sofa where Agatha is sitting, she heaps more abuses on her for dirtying her $12,000 white leather sofa and instantly dismisses her and in the process calling her all sorts of names. Unable to stand all the pressures and abuses any more, Agatha runs amok, seizing a nearby statue and strikes it at Havana's forehead until her face is all covered with blood. The film ends.  

Before the bloody finale, we are shown  how Havana was disappointed when someone else was chosen to play the role of her mother in the re-make of the film which made her famous, how she makes love to the same young man with her competitor and then her, how she congratulates her when the latter got the coveted to play her mother, how delighted she is when the latter's son was nearly killed by Benjie and her competitor is too devastated to continue, how mean she can be in her speech once she finds her prized possession dirtied, how despite everything she does, she is haunted by the image of her mother and how she seeks relief by engaging in sex with men and other women in a three-some and with Agatha's boyfriend. We see also how Benjie really doesn't enjoy doing what he is doing and yet is jealous of the attention stolen from him by a 7 year-old boy who is playing a sub-ordinate role in the TV series with him and how a girl fan whom he had seen at a hospital as part of a public relations exercise dies the day after his visit and how her image haunts him and how to erase that image in his mind, he kills  the 7-year-old co-starlet he hated at the studio toilet, hallucinating that the is the girl fan who dies after his visit and how to ease his stress, he takes drugs again.

It seems that beneath the surface gloss of beautiful houses and designer furniture and lush gardens and swimming pools, beneath all the media attention, all is not well in the private lives of some of the celebrities in tinsel town. The incestuous relationship within the Weiss family seems merely an exaggerated version of the incestuous relation between competition, greed, money, fame, jealousy, drugs and violence, all hiding under the thinnest covering of mutual civility but which seems to feed on each other and to fuel an endless cycle of aggression and destruction. Juliane Moore puts in an excellent performance as the conflicted Havana for which she won the best actress award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. But in my opinion, Mia Wasikowska also deserves one too for her role as the reformed fire raiser eager to make amends and for emotional closure of a past family tragedy who is provoked into becoming the author of another tragedy in the land of dream factories.