February 20, 2024

May December 2023 Movie Review

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May December 2023 Movie Review

    Greetings again from the darkness. Contentedly, most us live our lives in a manner that would never be worthy of tabloid headlines. Not so for Gracie in this psychologically complex new film from expert director Todd Haynes (FAR FROM HEAVEN, 2002) and writers Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik. Early on, Haynes shows us those tabloids featuring Gracie’s scandal following her seduction of 7th grader Joe in the stock room of the local pet store. She was 36 years old, and he was 13. Soon after, Gracie went to prison, where she bore their first child.

    The story picks up 24 years later as Gracie and Joe are married, and their second and third children, twins Mary (Elizabeth Yu) and Charlie (Gabriel Chung), are graduating high school and preparing to ship off to college. In other words, they are all living a fairly normal life. However, as a harsh reminder that their lives are not actually normal, Elizabeth (Oscar winner Natalie Portman) arrives at their Savannah home to research her role as Gracie in an upcoming indie film about the scandal.

    Oscar winner Julianne Moore plays Gracie, in her fourth collaboration with director Haynes. Charles Melton (THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR, 2019) plays Joe, who is now the same age as Elizabeth, as well as the kids from Gracie’s first marriage. Elizabeth is polite and apologetic as she initially treads carefully in asking probing questions of the family and their friends. Her approach generates some awkward moments, and although Gracie seems to hold firmly to her did-nothing-wrong stance, it’s Joe who begins to question things … mimicking the slow development of the Monarch butterflies he breeds.

    Perhaps the film’s best sequence occurs when actress Elizabeth shows up for a Q&A with Mary and Charlie’s class. When the question gets a bit risqué, Elizabeth’s answer borders on inappropriate, and is an honest depiction of the fine line between acting and reality. Back at the house, Elizabeth’s questions raise previously unspoken doubts, as well as the ongoing impact of the scandal … not the least of which are periodic postal deliveries of excrement denoting some of the public’s view of a female predator.

    The similarities to the true-life story of Mary Kay Letourneau are inescapable, though a twist here is that Gracie and Joe’s recollection of how things started are not necessarily in sync. Savannah is always a character unto itself, and the accompanying music is eerily spot on … including the repurposing of Michel Legrand’s score from THE GO-BETWEEN (1971). The three lead actors (Ms. Portman, Ms. Moore, Mr. Melton) are terrific, and director Haynes has delivered yet another complex movie that gives the appearance of simplicity due to how beautifully it’s done.

    May December 2023 Movie Review