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Festival de Cannes 72 Countdown: Maps to the Stars, 2014

We excitedly countdown to the 72nd Festival de Cannes with a different prize winning film each day.

Maps to the Stars, 2014

Prix d’interprétation féminine – Julianne Moore

2014 was a big year for actress Julianne Moore. Not only did she walk away with the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Still Alice. She was also awarded the Prix d’interprétation féminine (Best Actress) award for her performance in Cannes, for David Cronenberg’s satire on Hollywood, Maps to the Stars. Moore really grabs our attention immediately. And holds onto it throughout the film, even through the film’s more surreal moments.

Even when Moore’s character behaves like a royal bitch, you can’t help but watch her. She’s like a traffic accident that you shouldn’t look at, but find your eyes drawn to. Steven Zeitchik from the Los Angeles Times summed up the character like this: “We don’t even love to hate Havana in the manner of a juicy villain. We just plain hate her. And yet there’s something so recognizable in her flaws that we also can’t tear ourselves away.”

Maps to the Stars

If you Google Moore’s name, her bio states the following: “she is particularly known for her portrayals of emotionally troubled women in both independent and Hollywood films”. Well, her character in Maps to the Stars is certainly very emotionally troubled. Moore plays a washed up former star called Havana Segrand. She is eager to secure a role in a remake of her mother’s film Stolen Waters.

“Moore explains that she based the character on an amalgam of Hollywood casualties she has encountered on her travels.”

Havana routinely hallucinates about the deceased younger version of her mother (played by Sarah Gordon). And is currently being treated by Dr. Stafford Weiss, a TV psychologist (played by John Cusack). In his piece for the Guardian, Xan Brooks describes Moore’s character as “grotesque, gaudy and ruthless. A nightmarish Norma Desmond for the 21st-century. I’m tempted to file this one as her most autobiographical role to date.”

However, when asked about whether Moore regards Havana as a monster, she stated: “Oh, I wouldn’t say she’s a monster, although it’s true she does behave monstrously at times. She’s one of these creatures that are very common in our industry. In that all of her self-worth and affirmation is projected from outside as opposed to inside. And the longer you live that kind of lifestyle, the more empty you become, until there comes a point when you just implode.”

Nothing seems to bring Havana to any real joy or pleasure, and she seems isolated in this world, alone and angry. In fact, when she attempts to do yoga which is designed to give peace of mind and tranquility, she has a major meltdown, leaving her cursing in pure rage.

Moore explains that she based the character on an amalgam of Hollywood casualties she has encountered on her travels. Even though Havana behaves like a monster, there’s some degree of sympathy felt towards her character. As Moore stated about her character, “She’s always lived in her mother’s shadow, and in her mind, it’s all a kind of mixed-up, Freudian mess.”

“Moore proved with Maps to the Stars, that she can play these monstrous characters with such class”

Havana claims to have been abused by her mother. And she has grown up in the world of fame and excess, where nothing really has any value. Being so messed up as a person, is it any wonder that she acts in such an awful manner? She seems to spend the majority of her time ridiculing her personal assistant Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska), who she deems as a weak target.

Maps to the Stars

Julianne Moore’s Havana acts out against anyone who tries to get close to her, and as a result she drives people away. Havana is on a course of self-destruction. She is so eager to be loved by other people because she was denied love from her mother.

Moore manages to capture this lost, lonely, and damaged individual without every being too heavy-handed in her approach. Even in scenes where Moore seems to be over dramatic and reacting to certain things in an excessively exaggerated manner. We know this is because of how her character reacts and her character’s background has led her to behave in this manner.

Moore proved with Maps to the Stars, that she can play these monstrous characters with such class, that she doesn’t end up parodying Faye Dunaway in Mommy Dearest. There’s so much sadness in Moore’s Havana. She is a crumbling mess who reels off a lengthily list of medication she is on and can’t sit still without trembling in anxiety.

Yes, she is far a cry from the tragic, ALS suffering Alice from Still Alice who genuinely deserves our sympathy. However, out of the two performances, Havana is the character I remember. And, dare I say it? I think Moore should have won the Oscar for Maps to the Stars. At least Cannes agreed with me and recognised the superior performance.

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