Star Maps

Star Maps, written and directed by Miguel Arteta, tells the story of
Carlos (Douglas Spain) who comes from his
grandparents’ house in Mexico, much
against his mother’s wishes, to live
with the rest of his family in Los Angeles: his father, Pepe (Efraim Figueroa),
his mother, Theresa (Martha Velez), his sister, Maria (Lysa Flores) and an idiot
brother called Pancho. His mother has had some kind of mental breakdown and now
seems to spend all her time in front of the TV dreaming of and talking to (as
she imagines) the great Mexican comedian, Cantinflas. Pepe, meanwhile, is
running a prostitution ring under the cover of
Maps,” or guides to the homes of the
Hollywood stars. As it happens, Carlos himself is dreaming of becoming a star,
but he consents to work as one of his
father’s male prostitutes to make his
way until he can get the long-desired job as an actor.

Even if this tale were not told with the kind Latin melodrama that is not
much to the taste of Anglo viewers, its premiss would be far too dubious for the
film to strike us as convincing enough to be enjoyed.
Here’s a guy
who’s willing to do anything, not even
to get to the top but just to live in L.A., and whose dreams of stardom might as
well be dreams of winning the lottery. In a word, Carlos is a fool, and it is
hard to make a fool into a hero, especially when his foolishness is accompanied
by moral weakness and vice.The degree of personal abasement in this kind of life
is so great to start with, its motivation so trivial, that you
can’t really (or I
couldn’t really) sympathize with the
kid in spite of his horrible father and his crazy mother. In fact,
Carlos’s burning desire to be a movie
star, idolized by millions, is only another form of the same delusion on which
the dreadful Pepe trades: namely, that love is a commodity.

It is also not very believable that one of
Carlos’s clients turns out to be a
beautiful actress on daytime soaps called Jennifer (Kandeyce Jorden), who offers
him a bit part as the Mexican gardener who sleeps with the lady of the house.
Jennifer is married to Martin, the producer of the show (called
County” ), who talks ineffectually of
making documentaries or something else that he considers to be socially
responsible. Thus Jennifer gets Carlos into the soap opera by enthusing to her
idealistic cuckold of a husband that this is
“one of the most socially responsible
shows we have ever done.” His struggle
to be free of the vicious, manipulative Jennifer piquantly parallels
Carlos’s own, but when in the end they
both break free, and Carlos also spurns from him his pimp-father, it is
difficult to decide which is the more depressing prospect, that of
Carlos’s stardom or that of
Martin’s liberated social

There are one or two funny moments, as when we are given a sample of the
dialogue written for Carlos’s brief
appearance in “Carmel

“Some of my best friends are
Mexican,” says the lady of the

“But none of your other Mexican
friends can mow your lawn the way I
can,” says the naughty Carlito. He
then goes on to talk of his
and his “leaf
blower” while the chatelaine
supposedly calls (faintly) for help and says:
helpless and I’m

But even that line, even the wonderful disclaimer over the closing credits
notifying us that “although the
characters in this film were portrayed as eating grapes, this is in no way
intended as an endorsement of non-United Farm Workers
grapes,” even these wonderful moments
are not worth sitting through the rest of this miserable stuff for.

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