May December (2023)

May December (2023)

Movie Details

Movie: May December (2023)
Stars: Natalie Portman, Chris Tenzis, Charles Melton
Initial release: 20 May 2023
Director: Todd Haynes
Story by: Samy Burch; Alex Mechanik
Genres: Comedy, Drama
Distributed by: Netflix
Budget: $20 million
IMDb: 6.9/10
Cinematography: Christopher Blauvelt
Runtime: 1 hour 57 minutes


May December (2023)


The rising American summer leaves the first drops of sweat on the forehead. The barbecue season is starting; vacuum-packed sausages finally land on the grill grate. An impressive two-story house becomes a meeting place for the small-town community. A handsome young man approaches a woman who skillfully hides her wrinkles under layers of makeup. They kiss, for a long time. A bit too long. From outside, a diva in sunglasses watches them through the window. Everyone freezes, as if still, engaged conversations quiet down, and somewhere in the background you can hear the air held in the lungs.

The first conversation between the women reveals their intentions. The younger one (Natalie Portman) is an actress, just preparing to take over the role of the older one (Julianne Moore). almost 20 years after starting an affair with a thirteen-year-old, highlighted in glossy magazines, he still regularly receives feces packed in postal boxes. Even though she managed to create a simulation of neighborly comfort, she knows that all of America hates her. She blindly hoped that people would forget, but people don’t forget.

So he allows the actress to soak into his life; he invites her to dinner, teaches her how to bake cakes, and takes her to bouquet decorating workshops. Elizabeth turns into a reporter for this time – always with a discreet notebook, she writes down small observations, and asks about the painful past, motivations, and intentions. Instead of using folded sheets of paper, the actress draws on the viewer’s perception, using precisely asked questions and practiced answers to build a picture of this strange world. On the plot level: maintains an appearance of normality, but quickly reveals cracks, unhealed and often even unconscious wounds. On the directorial level: subcutaneously building horror, drawn by Haynes into a strange, post-ironic bracket.

May December refers the director’s fans much more to the early, rakishly twisted Poison or Shelter than to the safe, almost authorless Wonderstruck or Dark Waters – Haynes finally returns to the satisfying play with conventions. He masters the camp skillfully, but never falls into self-parody, he plays at the highest pitch without any plot reason but avoids any pretensions. Perhaps because the tonal eccentricity results directly from the psychological complexity of the characters. The three corners of the triangle form a critical polyphony.

Gracie, seemingly the most composed and composed, regularly bursts into hysterical tears over trivial failures, reminding us of the unreality of the orderly Matrix of everyday life. Her husband Joe, a seventh-grader trapped in the body of a 36-year-old handsome man, is in the process of sending his more mature children to a state college. There is also Elizabeth, meticulously following every little detail to help better prepare her for her film role, but the task is almost impossible due to her emotional apathy. The controversial triumph of forbidden love obviously cannot be understood by a romantic illiterate trained to replicate concepts of feeling. But can it be understood by anyone else? Or otherwise; should he even?

May December plays this question slyly. Within a story about the pedantic study of character, it actually thematizes the issue of the immutability of primary moral judgments and culturally encoded prejudices. In this sense, each viewer will experience Haynes’ latest film differently; for some, it will be a story of social non-acceptance of the impossible power of love, for others it will be a story about manipulative grooming and its psychological consequences. For the puppet master’s own satisfaction, Haynes sometimes seems to tip the scales of justice to one of the sides, sometimes speaking through the mouths of the characters who are in love (but are they really?) and sometimes watching from a distance the often absurdly escalating relationship conflicts.

However, he leaves the sources of both unanswered and never discovers the objective truth, because there is no objective truth within the psychological case study of May December. At least as viewers, we do not have access to it, viewing the characters only through the context of headlines, flashes of reflection, and views on interpersonal reality in general, rooted in us. Haynes is therefore not interested in the sources of the portrayed relationship, he does not present reasons, and he avoids intensive psychoanalysis.

What matters is what we, as nosy reporters of social life, can observe. Just enough. Haynes also puts a cunning script focus on this inquisitiveness. The overwhelming need to adapt goes hand in hand with the apparent deepening of psychology. As the story progresses, we learn that Elizabeth is not at all preparing for the first film about this romantic scandal. One of them was already created a few years ago, the other one he is working on, and others are probably on the way. America likes to read gossip magazines, but most of all it loves to watch. Just like us, full of false hope that cinema still has the revolutionary power to change opinions.

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