November 20, 2023

CINEMA | Natalie Portman Studies 'May December' x WFF 2023

"This is just what grown-ups do."
Natalie Portman Julianne Moore Todd Haynes | May December Netflix
Whistler Film Festival
Celebrated indie filmmaker Todd Haynes directs the comically meta melodrama May December, loosely inspired by the Mary Kay Letourneau scandal of the 1990s, starring Natalie Portman (also a producer) and Julianne Moore as an actress doing research and the controlling real-life tabloid subject of the former's latest film project.

Hayne toys with audience expectations through soap opera-ish type filmmaking tricks to dial up the melodramatic tension of a past scandalous affair dug up in the name of a big screen adaptation within the film. Moore portrays an emotionally manipulative housewife and ex-convict who, twenty years prior, was jailed for seducing a seventh-grader (Charles Melton) and is now "happily" married with a blended family in suburban Savannah, Georgia, to her former victim.

Melton, as the arrested adult version of a statutory rape survivor coming to terms with his life as a suburban father and husband after the decisions he made as a child, is poignant and thoughtful in a blisteringly vulnerable performance full of complex emotional depth. Much of the film feels like a trap as seemingly polite characters ponder their own devilish motivations and manipulative actions against one another.

There's a deeply sincere quality to the dryly comical knowingness of May December's detached psychological humour. Scripted by screenwriter Samy Burch, the self-conscious film revels in its cattiness. It's often truly uncomfortable how the various characters toy and play with each other's emotions as Brazillian composer Marcelo Zarvos' delightfully overwrought musical score dials up the sense of high tension. It's an intoxicating ride questioning emotionally predatory behaviour at every turn.

May December screens at the 2023 Whistler Film Festival as part of the Special Presentations program as well as at both the VIFF Centre and Rio Theatre. It will also be available to stream on Netflix starting December 1st.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Vogue / Vox

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