Sunday 3 December 2023

Movie Review: May December (2023)

Genre: Psychological Drama
Director: Todd Haynes
Starring: Julianne Moore, Natalie Portman, Charles Melton
Running Time: 117 minutes

Synopsis: Actress Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman) arrives in Savannah, Georgia to spend time with Gracie Atherton-Yu (Julianne Moore) and her much younger husband Joe (Charles Melton). Elizabeth is due to play Gracie in an upcoming movie exploring her sensational story: Gracie and Joe fell in love when she was 36 and he was 13. She had his children in prison, and they were married upon her release. Now Gracie is close to 60 and Joe is 36 and their twin children are about to graduate from high school. Elizabeth is more than just curious, and starts to add turmoil to Gracie's family dynamics.

What Works Well: Loosely inspired by the life of Mary Kay Letourneau, director Todd Haynes and writer Samy Burch craft a sly human drama searching for the impulses behind notoriety. Revealing secrets through Elizabeth's not-purely-neutral outsider's perspective, the layers of complexity residing within Gracie are gradually peeled away, but there is always another shell protecting the core, perhaps even from Gracie herself. Meanwhile Elizabeth is quick to assess the relatively simple men in Gracie's life, with Joe not even aware of the multiple webs surrounding him. The intriguing contest between notorious woman and ambitious actress allows both Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman to exquisitely hint at quiet reservoirs of turmoil mixed with inner strength, accompanied by a playfully tense music score.

What Does Not Work As Well: The scars inflicted on Gracie's children are introduced in tantalizing doses, and could have benefited from broader exposition.

Conclusion: Life's real dramas reside well away from the headlines.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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