Review: May December
Official Synopsis: Twenty years after their notorious tabloid romance gripped the nation, a married couple, Gracie and Joe (Julianne Moore and Charles Melton) buckles under pressure when an actress, Elizabeth(Natalie Portman) arrives to do research for a film about their past.
I've wanted to write about this film so badly. If you grew up in the U.S in the 90's, you're probably familiar with Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Faulauu. Letourneau was Vili's teacher and began preying on him when he was 12. She went to jail for rape, but they married as soon as she got out before finally divorcing in 2019. May December takes inspiration from this case. Gracie isn't Joe's teacher, but rather his manager at a pet store, and he's 13 when Gracie starts preying upon him, not 12.
So much of this film hangs on Charles Melton's amazing performance as Joe. He's 36 years old and seeing his last 2 children off to college. Many of his peers have much younger children or are even starting to think of having kids, and here he is about to be an empty nester. You can still see that Gracie has a firm hold on him. She's overly concerned with who he talks to, she still babies him to an extent. Ordering him around, reminding him of things unnecessarily. You can tell he's tired. At one point, he comes home to hear her crying and sighs before going to comfort her. You can tell he's used to this.
Enter Elizabeth, an actress with an air of pretentiousness and serious boundary issues. Portman is great in this role. Even though she's trying to understand Gracie, she still sees them as specimens. Not fully realized humans. It makes for a lot of uncomfortableness.
But this is where I wish the story was different. Having the lens of an actress getting to know them was interesting, but I couldn't help but be more interested in Joe himself and their children's point of views. There's so much subtext there that I wanted to explore. I almost think this film would've been better if we didn't have Elizabeth intruding on the couple, but rather have them react to the film after it was made, not before. I think that would've allowed more time to sit with Joe and his kids.
But I also acknowledge that could be my wishful thinking, of wanting Joe to examine his life as a victim and start over. I find myself thinking of Vili Faulauu in the same way. He's apparently married to someone else with a new baby. I hope he's happy. It's impossible not to digest stories this way, and director Tom Haynes knows this. We're all intruders like Elizabeth here.
There's one thing I absolutely hate about this film, and it's the score. It's so schlocky and is something right out of the depths of Lifetime hell. Someone is bound to tell me "that's the point" but I don't care. I hate it. Other than that, I cannot stop thinking about this film. I'm firmly on the Charles Melton Oscar nomination bandwagon after this.