May December – first-look review

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Todd Haynes' deliciously acheronian melodrama sees Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman spell head-to-head arsenic a housewife and nan female tasked pinch playing her successful a film.

Adding melodrama to nan seemingly endless database of genres he tin move his manus to, Todd Haynes creates a thorny, wholly compelling characteristic from Samy Burch’s acerbic book successful May December, arsenic an character tries to get nether nan tegument of nan female she’s scheduled to play successful an upcoming biopic. Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman) is champion known for her activity connected Norah’s Arc – a tv show successful which she plays a veterinarian. Although she’s “so fortunate to person nan show”, she yearns for nan legitimacy of a meaty movie role, and thinks it mightiness beryllium successful nan indie movie she’s starring successful which tells nan communicative of Joe and Gracie Atherton-Yoo.

The mates unrecorded successful nan suburbs of Savannah Georgia pinch their eighteen-year-old twins Mary and Charlie, who are astir to alert nan nest for assemblage – by each authorities they look for illustration a saccharine couple, but nan communicative of their narration is revealed to beryllium a contentious one, erstwhile Gracie (Julianne Moore) is unfazed by strangers leaving packages of canine poo connected their doorstep. It turns retired Gracie began an matter pinch Joe (Charles Melton) erstwhile he was 13-years-old, becoming pregnant pinch his kid and serving clip successful prison. Some 2 decades later they unrecorded a quiet life, and seemed wished to person Elizabeth that they’re conscionable for illustration immoderate different happy family.

The devil’s successful nan specifications though, and arsenic Elizabeth learns much astir nan Atherton-Yoos from some nan family and those that known them, she originates to announcement ripples successful nan supposedly still water. Burch’s book is deliciously pitched, sly and wry pinch an undercurrent of melancholy, arsenic Elizabeth’s beingness besides forces Joe to face beliefs he has held astir his life for complete 20 years.

It’s difficult to judge this is Burch’s first produced characteristic screenplay fixed nan sharpness of her speech – she’s unequivocally now 1 to watch – while Charles Melton, hitherto champion known for his roles successful CW play Riverdale and teen weepie All nan Bright Places – is simply a revelation arsenic nan mild-mannered, gentle Joe, who holds his ain against nan prima powerfulness of Portman and Moore pinch ease. Amid nan bad actors successful his life, 1 hopes saccharine Joe – whose full life has been shaped by thing he was coerced into astatine 13 – mightiness look for illustration nan monarch butterflies he lovingly tends to, and beryllium capable to alert acold away.

Meanwhile, Moore is simply a softly-spoke, faux-naive housewife who dedicates herself to baking cakes and wears a action of prairie dresses, ne'er rather revealing if she’s deluded aliases a maestro manipulator. Portman keeps gait arsenic nan self-absorbed Elizabeth, who is atrocious successful a different way, remarking successful 1 darkly amusing speech astir nan teenagers reference for nan domiciled other her, “they’re cute, but they’re not sexy enough”.

This is by acold Haynes’ funniest movie to date, pinch shades of Almodóvar successful its melodramatic zooms and heightened home tension. The icing connected nan barroom is Marcelo Zavros’s score, adapted from Michel Legrand’s gorgeous activity connected Joseph Losey’s The Go-Between, which adds a consciousness of play and enigma to each frame. Yet nan soap opera shades don’t overshadow nan truth there’s genuine emotion and tenderness present too. Haynes takes nan lives of these characters seriously, moreover though it’s clear that nan narration betwixt Gracie and Joe is nan merchandise of an insidious process of affectional and intersexual grooming. When nan inevitable confrontations travel astir nan reality of Gracie’s actions, she will do thing to deflect blame.

Published 22 May 2023

Tags: Julianne Moore Natalie Portman Todd Haynes

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