- Natalie Portman, Chris Tenzis, Charles Melton, Julianne Moore
- Written by
- Samy Burch (Screenplay/story by), Alex Mechanic ( story by)
- Directed by
- Todd Haynes
- Run Time
- 1h 57min
- Release Date
- December 1st, 2023
We have all heard the phrase ‘ripped from the headlines’ in reference to a show or movie telling a story that was once tabloid fodder. Todd Haynes’s new film does indeed take its story from those tabloids, but this is not a story about what happened; instead it tries to answer the question, ‘What happens after the headlines?’ Haynes and writers Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik find a way to take a story that was full of warts and make it attractive enough for the screen.
Twenty years ago, Gracie (Julianne Moore), then a thirty-six-year-old wife and mother, started an affair with Joe Yoo (Charles Melton). Cheating on your spouse is never looked upon in a good light, but when you are thirty-six and have that affair with a seventh-grader, well, that will get you sent to prison. After serving her time, Gracie and Joe resume their life together, have two kids, and from what it seems, live a good and peaceful life. Their story, though, is about to be turned into a movie, and the actress playing Gracie wants to spend some time with the person she is portraying. Her name is Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), and when she arrives, she is given a very warm welcome. She did not take the part to tell the happy moment in someones life; instead, she wants to explore the grey areas of the relationship that led to Gracie’s prison term. The knowledge she seeks soon turns her welcome into a more required nuisance as it starts to open up wounds that were long thought healed. Learning the truth that she needs to play Gracie is all that matters, and Elizabeth will try to get that by any means necessary. For those thinking that Haynes will deliver that one twist that explains everything at the end, well, you will be disappointed. Instead, Haynes lets Gracie and Joe’s relationship linger and shows how it can affect so many others. Stories often spend their time on small damaged fields of people’s actions, but May December lets you see the entire blast field. While most of those supporting roles are small, they are lively and deliver in the time given to them. The real bout, though, is in watching two Oscar winners go head-to-head as Portman and Moore soar in their subtle psychological duel. Those two might make it difficult for anyone else to stand out, but the performance that stood out to me was Melton, who you can’t take your eyes off of any time he is on screen.
May December is by no means a subtle film, and it has its ways tin setting a uncomfortable atmosphere. One of its main weapons in achieving this is the score by Marcelo Zarvos, which perfectly supports all the emotional upheaval we as viewers are witnessing. And at times evokes a 70’s thriller vibe. Whatever faults May December might have, like at times it can be a little slow, however the buildup ultimately leads to a strong finish and makes you forget those few slower moments. What I enjoyed the most, outside the shining performances, is how layered the story is, giving you plenty of things to ponder long after the film’s end.