May December (2023)
November 26, 2023 6:30 PM - Subscribe

Twenty years after their notorious tabloid romance gripped the nation, a married couple buckles under the pressure when an actress arrives to do research for a film about their past.

"With May December Haynes has crafted an implausible blend of raw authenticity and stylized histrionics that’s fueled by a curious intellectual inquiry: what role do we play in our own story? With his choice of actresses, Haynes offers up differing approaches to performance that further muddle the brilliant ambiguity that pulses throughout Burch’s screenplay. [Julianne] Moore [...] here turns Gracie into a warm cipher of a woman who wears her ingenuity with such nakedness you don’t notice how much of it is not just an armor but a sly weapon. Hers is a portrayal that refuses the pull toward coherence, toward story."—Manuel Betancourt for The AV Club

"Then again, how much compassion does Gracie really deserve? May December offers up a tricky moral equation—even the film itself is a quandary."—Ricahrd Lawson for Vanity Fair
posted by bcwinters (7 comments total)
posted by bcwinters at 6:39 PM on November 26, 2023

"I can't tell if we're connecting, or if I'm creating a bad memory for you in real time" is a great line.
posted by fleacircus at 3:29 PM on December 2, 2023 [3 favorites]

"My mother wrote a pretty respected book on, uh, epistemic relativism" felt like an easter egg.
posted by Stanczyk at 7:29 AM on December 3, 2023 [3 favorites]

Some Twitter stuff about whether this is camp. People do love to apply that label.

I do like how the movie is trying to thwart "characterization" of Gracie, in the sense of turning her into a character. I like it most as a portrait of Elizabeth more than Gracie and invites you to see her as the gross one. I suppose the ding dang ol' audience is implicated too I tell you what. Elizabeth is not around for the important scenes we see with Gracie and Joe's life, but that just highlights how much Elizabeth doesn't know or care.

It has the structure of a psychological sex thriller, but with the "tasty" parts ripped out, leaving something kind of realist. An actor's Becoming is de-romanticized. The easy attractive idea of like, "we are actors in our own lives?" is played with but also no, we're not actors like Elizabeth is an actor. It's not the same thing; Elizabeth does not become Gracie, either.

Thinking about Gracie from the kind of judgmental tabloid direction, I personally think the worst part was not the sex but the tying down; starting a family with Joe. Elizabeth's movie's not interested in that though! But even that awfulness is not clear. Are all fathers ready to start familes? Is this family unhappy? I doesn't let the repugnance flow.

Idk that's my first read.

Details I liked: I loved the reveal at the end of just how sleazy and cheap the movie looked: It was all for that?? I laughed a lot a Joe's interest in butterflies: creatures with very clear adult/child phases! I liked how Gracie's kitchen island was like a command center / pulpit, and how it helped crush Gracie's line about Joe always being in control.
posted by fleacircus at 10:41 AM on December 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

Loved this, and it has stuck in my mind ever since I watched it a few days ago.

Is there ever an explanation for how they afford such a fancy house? From Gracie selling the rights to her story? Or is it just a trope of the sort of cheesy Lifetime melodrama Haynes is parodying?
posted by HeroZero at 6:06 AM on December 7, 2023 [2 favorites]

I really liked this and my partner was left cold. There was so much going on. I loved Joe so much. He makes this movie and I hope he gets his due.
posted by Carillon at 12:46 AM on December 9, 2023

It's funny that I never appreciated Natalie Portman as an actress until she started doing these studied, unlikeable, character-playing-a-character roles. I loved every single thing about this (occasionally excruciating) film, but I also thought the tragedy of Joe/Thomas Melton's character was handled kindly enough that it let the rest of the movie off the hook for its hilarious cruelty. (FWIW, my favorite unsavory bit was Elizabeth's complaint that the 13 year-olds auditioning for the Joe's part -- who, appropriately, looked like children -- were "not sexy enough," and the ultimate payoff that they cast an older actor in the role. But I also guffawed when Gracie responds to her daughter's obvious joy in the second dress with the awful, side-swipey comment that her daughter ought to be ashamed of showing off her arms. The monster she is!)

I know this is a Netflix Thing, but they barely gave this movie a minute at the theaters! I was actually going to see it a couple of weeks ago, but I couldn't find a single showtime near me. And then I found it on Netflix this weekend! I don't think it needed to be on the big screen or anything, but I make it to the actual theater so rarely these days that I kind of felt bad.
posted by grandiloquiet at 11:51 AM on January 24

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