Mar 13

“Maps to the Stars”: A Wacky Therapist and More Dysfunction

Most critics agree: fans of Julianne Moore will like her performance as actress Havana Segrand in the new film Maps to the Stars, directed by David Cronenberg.

Other tidbits about Maps that have gotten my attention? In addition to loads of family dysfunctional issues, there’s also John Cusack as a wacky therapist. From Focus Features:

Meet the Weiss family, who are making their way in Hollywood rife with money, fame, envy, and relentless hauntings. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is a famed TV self-help therapist with an A-list celebrity clientele. Meanwhile, Cristina Weiss (Olivia Williams) has her work cut out managing the career of their disaffected child-star son, Benjie (Evan Bird), a fresh graduate of rehab at age 13. Yet unbeknownst to them, another member of the Weiss family has arrived in town – mysteriously scarred and tormented Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), just released from a psych ward and ready to start again. She soon works her way into a friendship with a limo driver (Robert Pattinson) and becomes personal assistant to unraveling actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), who is beset by the ghost of her legendary mother, Clarice (Sarah Gadon). But Agatha is on a quest for redemption – and even in this realm of the artificial, and the unearthly, she’s determined to find it, no matter what it takes.

And, a critic’s view from Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian:

“…a macabre ensemble comedy of cruelty, insecurity and self-hate…a satire of contemporary Hollywood, with echoes of Sunset Boulevard and Postcards from the Edge, depicting a communal nervous breakdown in a town so enclosed and incestuous that everyone is part of the same symbolic sibling-hood of fear. This is one, big, unhappy dysfunctional family, in which guilty souls are afraid of failure and haunted by the return of the repressed. Every surface has a sickly sheen of anxiety; every face is a mask of suppressed pain.

You can see the trailer below:

Havana Segrand and Her “Therapy”

A.O. Scott, New York Times: Described both as “…an actress perpetually on the verge of coming apart” and “a Santa Ana wind of need, neurosis and solipsism,” Havana uses several types of therapy: “a combination of massage, est and California Freudianism — with Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), a self-help guru who happens to be Benjie and Agatha’s father.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: “Taking her self-esteem to a new low, she is auditioning for a remake of a 50s melodrama starring her late movie-star mother Clarice – whom she now believes abused her, thanks to sessions with creepy new-age therapist Stafford…”

Matt Zoller Seitz, rogerebert.com: “Havana’s regular therapist/masseuse/TV psychologist…presents himself as selfless and caring, but seems determined to crack open repressed minds mainly so he can root around and provoke extreme reactions. (When Stafford manipulates Havana’s body on a yoga mat, Cronenberg’s staging suggests sex, sometimes rape.)”

Various Themes

Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice: “…clearly intended as a sharp satire of Hollywood ambition, vanity, avarice, and emptiness…”

Peter Debruge, Variety: “…[Bruce] Wagner’s script is content to go after easy targets: child actors, Scientology, revolving-door rehab programs, New Age-y pseudo-spiritualism. With all due respect to the fine work they do, acting is a line of work that tends to attract broken people: those who thrive under false identities, forever seeking public reinforcement.”

(The Mixed) Overall Reviews

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “With its muddled plot twists, ridiculous dialogue (by Bruce Wagner), easy targets (Scientology is always good) and preposterous view of La La Land, Maps to the Stars is part satire, part soap opera, part ghost story, and totally moronic.”

Peter Debruge, Variety: “…Part showbiz sendup, part ghost story, part dysfunctional-family drama, the movie instead comes across as so much jaded mumbo-jumbo.”

Dave Calhoun, Time Out: “Some of this creepy portrait of Beverly Hills screw-ups is deeply silly – here’s looking at you, John Cusack as a self-help guru with a nasty past – but it has just enough venomous bite to leave you feeling poisoned simply from being in the company of these gargoyles for two hours.”

Jon Frosch, The Atlantic: “…Maps to the Stars is so crisply directed, furiously paced and gleefully performed, that you go along for the ride.”

Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press: “‘Maps to the Stars’ is a strange, sometimes intoxicating mix of satire, ghost story and family melodrama, with a plot and point that remain hazy to the end.”

Jan 18

“A Dangerous Method”: Three Psychoanalysts Depicted

In a previous post about scary boundary-breaking by therapists, I described the based-on-a-true-story film A Dangerous Method (2011), which wasn’t yet in theaters. Now it is, and in a couple months or so it will be released on DVD.

Today’s post will use excerpts from film reviews/articles to focus on the characterizations in the movie of the three depicted analysts: Freud, Jung, and Spielrein.

Rex ReedNew York Observer

…a psychological tug of war between the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortenson), and his disciple Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) over the mind and sex of an overwrought mental patient named Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), a mad Russian with a craving for spanking. Whacking her on her naked bottom must have worked. She ended up, years later, analyzing patients of her own. Too bad she didn’t also analyze this movie. It would have saved so much wasted time.

(Ouch, Spielrein herself might have said.)

Lisa Kennedy, The Denver Post:

David Cronenberg’s elegant historical drama ‘A Dangerous Method’ begins and ends in a way that recalls one of Sigmund Freud’s better-known quotes.

‘Much has been gained,’ he told a patient, ‘if we succeed in turning your hysterical misery into common unhappiness.’

(In modern psychiatry there is no longer a diagnosis of “hysterical neurosis.” The current DSM uses “conversion disorder,” basically defined as the conversion of emotional issues into physical symptoms. For the upcoming revised edition of the DSM, “functional neurological disorder” is being considered as the next replacement term.)

J. Hoberman, Village Voice:

…The protean Fassbender plays a proper Jung, steely yet agonized; Mortensen’s self-amused, paranoid Freud is a more unusual piece of work. Mind ablaze, he sees repression everywhere. The mystical Jung believes that nothing happens by accident; for Freud, all accidents have meaning.

(And for Spielrein, her therapy is an accident waiting to happen.)

Dr. Sandra Fenster, Ph.D., psychoanalyst (from a post on Psychology Today):

…Jung lost his objectivity–something an analyst cannot afford to do. With his patient, Sabina Spielrein, Jung’s own insatiable needs got the best of him; he confused them for hers. That is what analysis is not. And, that is the danger in the method.

(And this is the voice of reason.)