Shadow
May December
Featuring one of the most stereotypically dramatic piano-based scores you will ever hear, this film plays out like a very wink-at-the-camera erotic thriller that would play on Lifetime, with a standout performance by Natalie Portman.

May December

Release Date: November 17, 2023
Runtime: 01:57
Synopsis:
Twenty years after their notorious tabloid romance gripped the nation, a married couple buckles under pressure when an actress arrives to do research for a film about their past.

The arrival of an actress researching for a role reignites the trauma of a scandalous love affair in . Elizabeth Berry () is a famous actress who has just arrived in a small island community in Savannah, Georgia. Elizabeth is researching to play Gracie Atherton-Yoo () in an upcoming film project. 25 years prior, Gracie was the subject of a tabloid scandal when at 36 years old, she started an affair with her now-husband, Joe Yoo () when he was only 13 years old. As Gracie and Joe's youngest children Mary () and Charlie () prepare for their high school graduation, Elizabeth's probing reignites some long-repressed issues.

May December Synopsis

May December is a darkly comic drama directed by Todd Haynes (Carol, I'm Not There). The film stars Natalie Portman and Haynes' longtime collaborator Julianne Moore (Safe, Far from Heaven) as lead protagonists of Elizabeth and Gracie. Elizabeth is preparing to play Gracie in a movie, with the hope being that the film will show that she and her second husband Joe, played by Charles Melton (Riverdale, Bad Boys for Life), have a normal and loving relationship with each other. However, as Elizabeth gets close to Joe and speaks with others, such as Gracie's oldest son Georgie (), she learns that the marriage might not be as stable as it appears.

My Thoughts on May December

Featuring one of the most stereotypically dramatic piano-based scores you will ever hear, adapted by Marcelo Zarvos from Michael Legrand's score for 1971's The Go-Between, May December plays out like a very wink-at-the-camera erotic thriller that would play on Lifetime or some other cable channel. Natalie Portman is quite good in the film playing Elizabeth Berry as a somewhat obsessive method actor, who seems blissfully unaware of the pot she is stirring, as she prepares to exploit Gracie's life for the big screen, with the film's final five minutes offering up a very ironic exclamation point to the narrative.

Arguably the one most affected by Elizabeth's presence is Charles Melton's Joe Yoo. On the surface, Joe seemed to have a happy life with Gracie after the tabloid scandal calmed down, with the couple having three kids together, even if they still get delivered the occasional box of excrement. However, it is soon learned that the normalcy of the relationship is a bit of a facade and Joe is starting to realize that he wasn't allowed to properly grow up and mature during his time with Gracie.

May December drops a hint that childhood trauma might have been the ultimate reason for Gracie's seduction of an underage teenager, though the film drops the issue almost as fast as it introduces it. Instead, the film is more about how the information she learns affects Elizabeth Berry's performance as Gracie, with Natalie Portman's best scene having her delivering a monologue into a mirror, reciting a letter Gracie wrote to Joe early in their affair. While the film as a whole leaves some issues unresolved, May December is still worth checking out for Portman's performance alone.

Trailer for May December

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How to Watch May December

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.