May December stands out as one of the most captivating films of 2023, weaving a thought-provoking narrative with exceptional performances under the direction of Todd Haynes. Loosely inspired by the controversial story of Mary Kay Letourneau, the film takes a bold step in exploring the aftermath of a 20-year-old relationship that began with an inappropriate and illegal age difference. An actress comes to visit and study the couple and those involved and/or impacted by the relationship. What sets this film apart is its commitment to showcasing the rarely discussed long-term consequences and complexities that unfold in the years following such a relationship.
Under Haynes' direction, the film unfolds with a deliberate and nuanced pace, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in the intricacies of the characters and their relationships. Christopher Blauvelt's cinematography, with its older grainy look, adds a layer of realism to the scenes, complementing the film's exploration of the long-term impact of unconventional relationships.
Natalie Portman, portraying the inquisitive actress Elizabeth, delivers a mesmerizing performance that elevates the film to new heights. Her portrayal of a curious woman studying the lives of those involved in the controversial relationship is filled with deep sincerity and nuance. Portman's voice tone, movements, and undeniable beauty make Elizabeth a compelling character to follow. The suspense surrounding Elizabeth's true motivations adds an extra layer of intrigue, keeping the audience guessing and engaged throughout the film (is her dedication merely so she can portray Gracie more accurately in the film? Or is there something else she is feeling? It certainly appears that there is.)
Julianne Moore, as Gracie, the older woman in the once-forbidden relationship, also brings forth a powerful and nuanced performance to the table. Moore masterfully communicates Gracie's discontent with Elizabeth's presence through facial expressions and an uninspired tone of voice, leaving audiences questioning the reasons behind allowing Elizabeth into her life. Moore successfully captures the essence of a character whose actions have left a lasting impact on those around her. Additionally, Moore skillfully portrays Gracie's unhinged behavior, vividly exemplified when a canceled pie order sends her into a tearful tantrum; this psychotic behavior leaves the audience asking, "How did her relationship survive for so long?".
Charles Melton, playing the manipulated young man, Joe, impressively portrays the pain and turmoil resulting from the inappropriate relationship that began when he was a minor. Melton's performance is a testament to the consequences of such situations, not only affecting the individual directly involved but also the lives of his children and their hopes as they approach graduation.
The film's composer, Marcelo Zarvos, contributes significantly to the immersive experience with a simple yet suspenseful musical score. The decision to use dialogue only in several tension-filled scenes, followed by the strategic introduction of striking music, showcases the film's attention to detail and commitment to building a captivating narrative.
Clocking in at just under 2 hours, May December is a slow burn that never feels sluggish. The tension, well-written complex characters, and superb acting keep the audience engaged from the first scene to the closing credits. The film is currently in select theaters (at the IPIC theater in Houston, TX) before it begins streaming on Netflix on December 1, 2023, and is a must-watch for those seeking a thought-provoking exploration of the repercussions of unconventional relationships.
May December is a masterpiece, seamlessly blending a compelling narrative with exceptional performances and technical expertise. It navigates a sensitive and often uncomfortable subject matter with Grace (no pun intended) and offers audiences a chance to reflect on the complexities of human relationships. As awards season approaches, this film is undoubtedly poised to garner nominations in multiple categories, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and maybe even Best Ensemble. Don't miss the opportunity to experience this cinematic gem.
|May December is a masterfully crafted exploration of complex relationships, featuring standout performances and a gripping narrative. A must-see.