Genre: Drama
Director: Todd Haynes
Cast: Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton, Piper Curda, Jocelyn Shelfo, Cory Michael Smith
Runtime: 1 hr 58 mins
Rating: R21 (Sexual Scene and Some Nudity)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 22 February 2024

Synopsis: Despite what began as a shocking affair, then 36-year old Gracie (Julianne Moore) and 13-year old Joe (Charles Melton) now lead a seemingly picture-perfect suburban life some 20 years later. Their domestic bliss is disrupted when Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a famous actress, arrives in their tight-knit community to research her upcoming role as Gracie. As Elizabeth ingratiates herself into the everyday lives of Gracie and Joe, the uncomfortable facts of their scandal unfurl, causing long-dormant emotions to resurface. In May December, director Todd Haynes explores one of the great talents of the human species: our colossal refusal to look at ourselves. 

Movie Review:

Fans of Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore rejoice: this is a rare treat where you get not one, but two powerhouse actresses in the same film. And the result is an acting masterclass that unfortunately did not get any love from the Academy members. Plus, the thought provoking themes explored in the story are complex yet sincerely expressed, making this a film you won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Portman, who has been nominated (and won) countless awards for her memorable performances in titles like Closer (2004), Black Swan (2010) and Jackie (2016), plays Elizabeth, an actress who sets out to study the life of Gracie, a woman who was involved in a scandalous crime more than two decades ago. Gracie is portrayed by Moore, who has been recognised for her luminous work in films like Boogie Nights (1998), The End of the Affair (2000) and Still Alice (2015). What makes Gracie an interesting character is how she is married to a man 23 years younger than her.

Here's the catch – the abovementioned crime took place in 1992 and saw Gracie, who was 36 years old then, being caught having sex with Joe, a 13 year old teenager. She was subsequently sent to prison and gave birth to Joe’s child during her jail term. Fast forward to 2015, the couple have three children and living in the suburbs where things seem to be fine, although they still receive the occasional unpleasant parcel which contain excrement. While Joe (Charles Melton) looks like the eldest child of the family, he tries his best to play the father role. With Elizabeth showing up in Gracie and Joe’s lives, things are going to get uncomfortably messy.

The story by Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik (earning the film its only nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category at the 96th Academy Awards) is loosely inspired by a real life scandal where a 34 year old woman pleaded guilty in 1997 to two counts of felony second degree rape of a child, who was 12 years old when the incident happened. The film has taken creative liberties to dramatise the relationships between its three lead characters, and the dynamics are deliciously played out. Portman, Moore and Melton are excellent in their roles, with director Todd Haynes confidently and successfully navigating through difficult themes with ease.

Does Elizabeth really mean it when she says she want her upcoming film to shed some truth to Gracie and Joe’s lives, and what lengths will she go to in the name of art? Why is Gracie so welcoming to Elizabeth, and how does she manage her marriage with a much younger man who may not be emotionally mature enough to handle the hard truths in life? And how is Joe exactly coping with being a husband and a father, and will there ever be an opportunity for him to take another stab at life? Through a series of events and wickedly played out plot developments, these questions and more will rush through your head, making you ponder how human emotions are manipulated.

Movie Rating:

(The topics explored in this film may be less than pleasant, but director Todd Haynes handles them with wicked humour and ease, making the powerful performances from Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore and Charles Melton even more compelling)

Review by John Li

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