Walking into the theater, I had little idea of what to expect from May December. The only detail I knew was that it was shot in Savannah, Georgia. I hadn’t watched a single trailer, and all the plot details were unknown to me. I rarely go into films like this, but I was actually excited to have no pre-existing expectations other than the fact that I knew Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore would be a powerhouse combo.
May December is a riveting tale, set two decades after a scandalous tabloid romance that had once captivated the entire nation. The film draws inspiration from the infamous real-life case of Mary Kay Letourneau, an American schoolteacher who, in 1997, was convicted on two counts of felony second-degree rape of a child. The victim, Vili Fualaau, was only 12 years old when their illicit relationship began.
However, names are different for this film. Julianne Moore plays Gracie, based on Letourneau. And Charles Melton plays her husband, Joe Yoo, based on an adult Fualaau. Together, the two find themselves buckling under pressure when an actress, Elizabeth, played by Natalie Portman, arrives to research their past for her upcoming movie.
May December Movie Trailer
May December Movie Review: What I Did and Didn’t Like
Let’s state the obvious. May December is both fascinating and uncomfortable, incredibly, incredibly uncomfortable. The one-hour and 57-minute run time explores themes that are often left untouched, unearthing raw emotions and challenging societal norms. The discomfort it induces is intentional, pushing the audience to question their own perceptions and biases.
The film’s story delves deep into the aftermath of a high-profile relationship, exploring the complexities and strains it places on the couple’s relationship, with Gracie seemingly in her late 50s and Joe in his mid-30s.
Naturally, the arrival of Portman’s character adds another layer of tension. Her character, tasked with researching the couple’s past, is a catalyst that brings the underlying tensions to the surface. Her presence not only disrupts the couple’s present life but also forces them to confront their controversial past.
As an audience, we are left grappling with complicated emotions. Portman’s character challenges our perception of right and wrong, making us question our own biases and societal norms. It’s a testament to the film’s narrative strength that it can provoke such a strong emotional response, leaving us uncomfortable yet undeniably engaged.
While all performances in May December are noteworthy, it’s Natalie Portman who truly shines. Her portrayal of Elizabeth is deeply nuanced, capturing the intricacies of her character remarkably well. It’s an award-worthy performance without question. However, it will be a challenging year for the Best Actress category, as there are so many strong performances, including Carey Mulligan in Maestro, Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon, and Emma Stone in Poor Things.
Julianne Moore will also likely pick up a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Her work here is exceptional, bringing a level of depth and complexity to her character that is truly impressive. Her on-screen chemistry with Portman is palpable, adding another layer of intricacy to their shared scenes.
Director Todd Haynes’ May December is an intense, unsettling film. It’s not a movie you’ll want to watch with your family this holiday season. It’s a psychological thriller that will probably make you feel disgusted. And while that doesn’t sound like a film that’s enjoyable to watch, the performances, the script, and the overall movie as a whole is well-crafted and worthy of praise. It challenges viewers and sparks conversation, and for that, it deserves recognition.
May December Movie Review:
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