New York Film Fest: 'Maps to the Stars' Gets Laughs But No Oscar Campaign

After Billy Wilder screened his Hollywood send-up Sunset Blvd. for an industry crowd prior to the film's release, the lights in the theater came up and Louis B. Mayer reportedly shouted at him, in front of a room full of A-listers, "You have disgraced the industry that made and fed you! You should be tarred and feathered and run out of Hollywood!" Wilder calmly walked over to him and replied, "Go fuck yourself."

With Maps to the Stars, which screened at Alice Tully Hall on Saturday night as part of the New York Film Festival, David Cronenberg — another revered filmmaker who was born outside of America and who has always looked a bit askance at Hollywood, opting instead to make his films in his native Canada — has made a satire of his own about the film colony and more or less told its population the same thing that Wilder told Mayer.

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That is good for a few laughs, but, for a film that is not of the caliber of Sunset Blvd., or even The Player, it won't help its Oscar prospects. Then again, those were fairly limited to begin thanks to the film's unconventionality — probably to Julianne Moore, who was awarded the Cannes Film Festival's best actress prize but would compete stateside in the best supporting actress category — and are further hindered by the fact that the film's U.S. distributor, Focus World, apparently intends to push it only for Golden Globes.

Maps, which was written by Bruce Wagner, is more fun, playful and accessible than much of Cronenberg's previous work. (See: 2012's Cosmopolis or, better yet, don't.) It suggests that all of Hollywood's denizens are damaged, out-of-touch, bigoted, sex-crazed narcissists — some incestuous or murderous — whose only reading materials are the trades and who refer to Harvey Weinstein on a first-name basis. There's no question that accurately describes many members of the community, but it's also a bit too broad of a generalization to remain funny or engaging for nearly two hours.

The most amusing parts of the film, many seemed to feel, are those in which it targets specific individuals whose behavior has invited a certain degree of ridicule, including Lindsay Lohan (Moore appears to be portraying what LiLo will be like 20 years from now if she doesn't get her act together), Justin Bieber (newcomer Evan Bird plays a punk similar to the cocky young singer) and Kris Jenner (Olivia Williams even has the short haircut of the mom-ager). Suffice it to say, it doesn't pull its punches.

Read more Cannes: 'Maps to the Stars' Director David Cronenberg Defends Satire

(For the record, the film also stars Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Cosmopolis alum Robert Pattinson and Cronenberg's beautiful muse of his last three films now, fellow Canadian Sarah Gadon.)

But let's face it: Cronenberg is a strange guy who makes highly unconventional movies to which the Hollywood community — and the Academy — have never really warmed up. Critics and cineastes of the sort who attend film festivals in Cannes and New York (I sat beside Don DeLillo and Salman Rushdie at the latter) adore him because he's an auteur with a clear style and themes (i.e. "veneral horror") to which he frequently returns in his films. But regular moviegoers, to whom Oscar voters probably bear a greater resemblance, generally find his work too cold and quirky for their taste, and I suspect that will be the case with this film, as well — assuming, that is, they get invited to screenings or receive screeners so that they can watch it in the first place prior to its 2015 theatrical release.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg

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