Star Cast: Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton
Director: Todd Haynes
What’s Good: Portman and Moore display all their acting power, while Haynes destroys the audience with the heaviest atmosphere.
What’s Bad: The ending feels abrupt, but it will resonate for those catching the symbolism.
Loo Break: Every scene is filled with tension and tragedy; you cannot miss one.
Watch or Not?: Yes! This is one of the best films of the year, and it is right on Netflix.
Available On: Netflix
Runtime: 117 Minutes
Todd Haynes is one of those directors who might not have a lot of films under their belt, but each of them is a mark of quality that many other directors wish they could reach. The director comes back with a top-of-the-line cast led by Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore, and on top of that, he is reaching for a very meaningful and layered style of filmmaking that will give audiences a lot of food for thought. This is a movie that will crawl into your skin and live in it long after the credits have rolled.
May December Movie Review: Script Analysis
When Ingmar Bergman released his film “Persona” in 1966, little did he know that his work would become so influential. He might have had an idea; of course, he was such a visionary artist, but reality would exceed his expectations for sure. The setup for that movie, where a nurse starts having a hard time differentiating herself from her patient, has become almost a staple of cinema at this point. When will reality stop, fiction begins, and so on? Todd Haynes asks the same question differently with May December, his new film on Netflix.
May December is one of those movies that is all about the text on screen and the subtext outside of it. This is a movie that the audience needs to pay attention to, more than just watch it for the sake of it. Because of this, it is a hard recommendation. Especially for people who just want something simple to watch. This is not it. This is a layered story where the things that are said are just as important as the things that are said. Haynes manages to create tension in each scene, and taking into account that most of the movie is just conversation after conversation, well, that is quite a feat.
Even the title May December, which might confuse some members of the audience, comes to light once the movie is over. It is actually quite brilliant. As the movie starts, it presents itself in one way, only to then show its true colors, which are truly terrifying. For those who catch what really is happening here, it will be an uncomfortable time if you have at least one ounce of humanity. For every conversation we hear, there is another one taking place, and even when that conversation isn’t loud, it is hard to feel it.
The layers of storytelling are outstanding, but having all these great ideas and symbols would mean nothing without proper execution. Haynes proves that he has what it takes to create exactly what he wants in each scene. The only moment when the movie might falter a bit is right in the end, not because it doesn’t make sense, but because the idea is maybe a bit too dark to come to the audience’s mind right at that moment. This is not a movie you will want to watch again, but you don’t need to. It will keep replying to you in your head for a while.
May December Movie Review: Star Performance
Bringing such a complex and human story to life is only possible by having excellent talent not only behind the camera but also in front of it. In this case, Haynes has the chance to have two Oscar-winning actresses in his movie. Both Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman are amazing in the film. If there was any doubt that these two have to reach the pinnacle of their craft, this movie is concrete proof that they have that level, with honors.
Out of the two, it is Portman who exceeds in being totally different from what we are used to. Her mysterious character is a fountain of questions and enigmas, even when she works as the audience surrogate at points. This might be Portman’s best performance to date. However, the truly magical performance comes from Charles Melton, who manages to create a beautiful character that reveals itself at the center of the story. Melton’s performance will win him awards for sure and put him on the map.
May December Movie Review: Direction, Music
Haynes has mastered the art of cinematic conversation. May December is just that—a series of conversations that start revealing more and more about the speakers. To do that in a way that doesn’t feel boring or visually flat is a challenge, but Haynes knows how to achieve the effect he wants. You could say that he has even improved upon Persona by making the pacing of May December a lot more approachable.
The score by Marcelo Zarvos is equally potent. Zarvos has worked with Haynes in the past, and it seems they make an excellent team. It is Zarvos’ score that hints more clearly than anything else that something is happening to the underlying fiber of the situation the movie presents. And oh boy! The score gets quite anxiety-inducing at times. Sometimes, it might even reveal something before it happens, but at other times, it knows when to remain silent, so the events can have even more weight.
May December Movie Review: The Last Word
May December easily make the climb into the best movies of the year. It has been a hard year, especially for Hollywood. However, it is very nice to get a reminder that the industry can still pull off special movies like this one among the myriad of comic book movies and the other many franchises. Sometimes, a movie can be just a movie, alone in its existence, and more often than not, those movies are the ones that we remember the most because they become a powerful, unique memory in our brains, for better or for worse.
May December Trailer
May December releases on December 1, 2023.
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For more recommendations, read our Locked In Movie Review here.