Maps to the Stars (and Impossible Pain)

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In unhealthy situations, it can be dangerous to come between people and the pain they suppress. Pain has a way of transferring to unrelated situations and interfering. Some pain is simply too much to face or to bear, and unknowingly finding ourselves in the middle of people and their pain can leave us in all sorts of trouble and confusion. People pull others into their pain, as a “misery loves company” method, or, more seriously, as a means to consciously or subconsciously employ defense mechanisms in order to cope.

In Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg – A Dangerous MethodA History of Violence), all of this comes into play as characters dedicate themselves to running from and making sense of the past. They are haunted as they attempt to make a way, unfairly inflict pain on others, and get caught in corners that no longer allow them to run. And this is all set in Hollywood, the ultimate setting for the ultimate game of appearance versus reality.

Academy Award® Winner (I am so happy to be able to say that) Julianne Moore (Havana Segrand) plays an actress haunted by her dead actress mother, from whom she suffered (and continues to suffer) abuse. She struggles for validation she is denied, and she makes the error of making her life’s work seeking validation in Hollywood. John Cusack (Dr. Stafford Weiss) and Olivia Williams (Christina Weiss) seek the same Hollywood validation because they are running from their past, something for which they are not to blame. To cover it up, however, they do the unforgivable. Now they are to blame for those actions. While “enjoying” a façade, they look to their child actor son (Evan Bird) to help maintain security. Mia Wasikowska (Agatha Weiss) becomes the link and collision point between the Weisses and Havana, and she is living through perhaps the worst thing a child can live through. She simply does the best she can, but her environment barely allows her anything. The people in her life who are supposed to support her and cherish her project their pain onto her, and she seems doomed. While the film, at the end, seems to be rushing to end and maybe falls into a cliché or two, it is a deliciously disturbing film and forces us to face our demons and consider what we show, what we hide, what we are willing to sacrifice to hide what we hide, and what we are willing to sacrifice in order to reveal ourselves and live truthfully. But, for me, the most deliciously disturbing message (because it is realistic) is the idea that there is always a question when we are dealing with people: to what extent are traumatic life experiences and impossible pain influencing the ways in which they interact with me?

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3 thoughts on “Maps to the Stars (and Impossible Pain)

  1. Great review. You touch on some interesting points, such as the final one you make about interaction. It’s endlessly explorable and I think Maps to the Stars does have a lot of that buried deeply into its subtext.

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    1. Thanks for the message! I often find myself thinking (or saying), “Why are we talking about this? It isn’t about this. It is about something much deeper. Do you want to tell me what is really going on?” That can make people uncomfortable. You’re right–it’s endlessly explorable. It’s both fascinating and disheartening because it’s there but so few are willing to face it. But at least it makes life quite interesting, for better and for worse. I’ve learned to embrace it because what other choice do we have?

      Liked by 1 person

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