We are in the nervy sunshine of LA and Hollywood, not an elegant Hollywood, no Visconti grandeur infusing the outrageous decadence.

It's more the feckless nihilism of Brett Easton Ellis, sex and drugs and whatever you're having yourself. Clutching at straws, the unhinged characters stop in the street and chant lines from a Paul Eluard poem to keep themselves going amidst the chaos.

Meanwhile, Julianne Moore is Havana Segrand, the insecure actress wading through the treacherous waters of middle age, despairing of her fading looks, and the loss of sexual allure. Daughter of a deceased actress who enjoyed some fame 30 years previously, Havana desperately wants to play her mother in the remake of the cult movie, Stolen Waters.

Moore’s portrayal of Havana is impressive, but Bruce Wagner’s screenplay is careful to avoid turning her into an out-and-out calculating bitch. In her helpless new-agey way, she is infatuated with the Dalai Lama, and has lingering vestiges of a humane, sympathetic side. It transpires that her problems with her mother are much more serious than the business of securing the movie role.

Meanwhile, Benji Weiss (Evan Bird) is a 13-year-old TV actor who has had troubles with drug abuse. The young actor’s troubles run much deeper also. He has visions of a girl who has recently died and is sane enough to be frightened of these apparitions.

The kid actor’s father is wealthy self-help guru Sanford Weiss, played by John Cusack. His equally-driven wife Cristina (Olivia Williams) is the kid's hard-nosed manager. Behind their confident facades, both parents are crippled inside, victims of serious familial transgressions that are in fact repeating through the generations. All hell breaks loose with the return of their banished daughter, Agatha (Mia Wasikowska). Robert Patttinson is very good as Jerome, the chauffeur and would-be screenwriter.

Cronenberg’s most recent film, Cosmopolis, also starred Patttinson and was based on the far too wordy novel of the same name by Don DeLillo. Most of the movie was set inside a stretch limo, and it was rather uneventful.

In contrast, the veteran director has much more scope in Maps to The Stars. Cronenberg is delving beyond the cliched dysfunctional Hollywood into tragic personal stories that somehow have nothing to do with the place. It is an interesting tension and it is carried off expertly and intelligently.

Paddy Kehoe