Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Maps to the Stars vs. The Rover, two serious dramas starring Robert Pattinson and premiering at this month’s Cannes Film Festival.
The 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival opened yesterday, and the man of the next 12 days seems to be none other Robert Pattinson, who is double billed with two films showing at the festival: The Rover and Maps to the Stars. The Rover is an Australian dystopian crime drama film that seems vaguely reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (madee into a 2009 film starring Viggo Mortenson). Against the backdrop of the desolate, near-future Australian desert, Eric (Guy Pearce) loses his last possession—his car—to a gang of criminals, and tries to hunt them down and exact revenge. Along the way, he teams up with Pattinson, a naïve member of the group who was injured and left behind. The Rover looks stark, minimal, and bordering on otherworldly—everything you’d expect from a post-apocalyptic fight for survival. Maps to the Stars is set in the vastly different—but in many ways equally harsh—world of celebrity-obsessed Los Angeles. A satirical drama that takes a hard look at the pursuit of fame at any cost, the film follows the lives of an archetypal Hollywood family, comprised of a self-help-spewing psychotherapist father, a stereotypical momager, a film assistant daughter just released from a sanitarium, and a 13-year-old child star son who just finished a drug rehabilitation program. Dysfunction reigns, but so does the absurdist comedy and acerbic attacks on society’s relentless glorification of stardom. The question is whether director David Cronenberg can add something to this discussion that hasn’t been said before. That being said, it’s something we’re interested in finding out.Advantage: Maps to the Stars
DirectorThe Rover director and writer, Australian filmmaker David Michôd, is best known for the critically acclaimed 2010 crime drama Animal Kingdom. Michôd is a relatively new in the directing circuit—The Rover is his second feature, with a number of short films and documentaries to his name ranging back to 2006. By contrast, Maps to the Stars’ Canadian director David Cronenberg has been producing, writing, directing, and acting in films since the 1960s and has been an influential force in science fiction, horror, and psychogical thrillers. Some of Cronenberg’s best-known films include 1993’s M. Butterfly, 2011’s A Dangerous Method, and, most recently, 2012’s Cosmopolis, which also starred Pattinson. While another Cronenberg film always sounds compelling, the question of whether newcomer Michôd’s can pull some as ambitious as The Rover really has us interested.Advantage: The Rover
Pattinson: Heartthrob-Turned-ArtistThankfully, Pattinson has come a long way from his Harry Potter and Twilight days. Sure, Twilight only ended in 2012, but Pattison has balanced each tween supernatural, abstinence-romance film with dramatic roles in Water for Elephants, Remember Me, and Bel Ami. Pattinson didn’t have any movies released last year, so 2014 marks the first year that he’s not juggling a worldwide teen franchise with complex, career-building roles. Pattinson plays a limo driver and struggling actor in Maps to the Stars, but his role as the wounded and abandoned gang member in The Rover seems like more of an artistic stretch.Advantage: The Rover
Pattison’s Support Staff The Rover is being advertised as a two-hander; though indie actors such as Scoot McNairy (Argo) and Gillian Jones (Oscar and Lucinda) round out a supporting cast, Pattinson and Guy Pearce are definitely the focus of the story. Maps to the Stars, on the other hand, boasts more of an ensemble cast, including Julianne Moore (Children of Men), John Cusack (Being John Malkovich), Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Olivia Williams (Hyde Park on Hudson), and Carrie Fisher as herself (obviously). The family dynamic in Maps to the Stars will either make or break the film, and Cronenberg has assembled a cast that is more than capable of delivering.Advantage: Maps to the Stars ExpectationsBoth The Rover and Maps to the Stars are generating some of the biggest buzz in the Cannes lineup. That being said, if one has to edge out the other, we’d say Maps to the Stars is a bit more highly anticipated, likely due to its more established director, broader cast, and intriguing premise. Neither film has screened yet, so based on public hype and the trailers alone, Maps to the Stars has a slight edge.Advantage: Maps to the Stars
VerdictRegardless of how good The Rover is, it doesn’t have the potential to really shake things up like Maps to the Stars, which is the latest in a line of iconic films reflecting on the allure of Hollywood culture. (Think Mulholland Drive or Sunset Boulevard 2.0.) With the oversaturated nature of celebrity obsession in today’s culture, taking a long, hard look at this reality seems more relevant than ever. Winner: Maps to the Stars
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