Dan McFadden
Keith Staskiewicz
September 24, 2014 AT 04:00 AM EDT

There’s plenty of body horror going on in L.A.’s cosmetic-surgery wards, but David Cronenberg’s latest film is more concerned with the city’s mentally disfigured. Julianne Moore stars as a monstrous fading star who makes Norma Desmond and Baby Jane look rational, while Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, and Mia Wasikowska round out a cast of showbiz grotesques. For a proud Canadian like Cronenberg, Hollywood can pose a philosophical quandary. ”There, it’s not enough to physically exist,” says the director, who debuted the film at May’s Cannes Film Festival. ”You need a career, otherwise you can die a pre-death.” Is any phrase more fraught than ”You’re a nobody”?

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