10 Nov 23
Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton, Cory Michael Smith
Todd Haynes, the visionary filmmaker behind Far From Heaven and Carol, returns to cinemas with May December – a psychodrama with its basis in truth.
Starring Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore and Charles Melton (Riverdale), this unsettling but captivating new film focuses on the relationship between Gracie Atherton-Yoo (Moore) and her husband, Joe Yoo (Melton), which is threatened by the arrival of popular actress Elizabeth Berry (Portman) at their picturesque suburban home in Savannah, Georgia.
Elizabeth is researching her role in an upcoming film based on Gracie and Joe's romance, which began 20 years previously. There's just one complication: at the time their relationship began, Joe was 13 years old.
Set against the prim but unnerving backdrop of American suburbia in Haynes' distinctive elegant style, the film invites audiences along
on a journey through a stylised, provocative, unpredictable yarn, It's a story that has already won across-the board-praise from the critics. "May December is delivered with a cool, shrewd precision by Todd Haynes," raved The Guardian. The Daily Telegraph agreed, calling it "a thrilling psychological tennis game."
At the heart of the film are a pair of central turns from two A-list actors working at the peak of their powers. A key Todd Haynes collaborator – May December marks their fifth partnership – Julianne Moore, an Oscar winner for Still Alice, is superb as Gracie. On the surface, she is delicate and naive but underneath she is slyly drawing Elizabeth into the idyllic family fantasy she has created.
Portman, who won a little gold man for Black Swan, is a chameleon: at times she is an ingenue and at others ruthlessly manipulative.
What unfurls is a fascinating game of cat and mouse, as the women's perceptions of each other shift and change, and they both have to face uncomfortable truths.
Meanwhile, Charles Melton, as Gracie's husband, more than holds his own against Portman and Moore, creating a trio of extremely believable, complicated, watchable characters.
The cast are given superb material in Samy Burch's prickly, intelligent, sometimes outrageous screenplay, which was very loosely inspired by the real-life story of American school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau. Nothing is straightforward in this twisted tale in which, in true Haynes fashion, beautifully decorated cakes and pretty sundresses mask a shady, more insidious world.
Exploring a taboo subject in a sensitive and compelling fashion while maintaining a surprising, mischievous sense of dark humour, May December is a smart, rich and thoughtful drama from one of America's finest filmmakers working today, featuring some of the best performances you'll see this year. Julianne and Natalie, take a bow. Hannah Strong
All About My Mother1999
Far From Heaven2002
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