20th May2024

‘May December’ Blu-ray Review

by James Rodrigues

Stars: Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton, Chris Tenzis, Andrea Frankle, Gabriel Chung, Mikenzie Taylor, Jocelyn Shelfo, D.W. Moffett, Charles Green | Written by Alex Mechanik, Samy Burch | Directed by Todd Haynes

Best known for starring in a TV series, Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) wishes to distance herself from that past role and prove herself as an actress. Her opportunity arrives in the form of an independent film which adapts a notorious tabloid story that gripped the nation. She intends to research the role by shadowing Gracie (Julianne Moore), the woman she will portray, and Gracie’s husband, Joe (Charles Melton), although Elizabeth’s arrival reveals cracks within their lengthy marriage.

Based off a script by Alex Mechanik and Samy Burch, director Todd Haynes slowly builds the mystery of May December regarding what scandal put the couple in the spotlight. They may be beloved within their community, yet the arriving parcels indicate that they have not escaped the past. This does not phase Gracie, who carries no shame about what happened and believes letting Elizabeth into her life will validate it. Moore exceptionally captures this figure who appears naïve and fragile, yet has more disturbing layers lurking underneath.

Intent on digging beneath the surface regarding this couple, Elizabeth examines the people and locations that were involved as she tries to understand the person that she wants to play. Her desire for meatier roles goes hand in hand with her dislike of being recognized for her past TV role, with Portman effectively capturing how the character straddles the line between performance and reality, as shown during a stand-out monologue delivered to camera.

Among these Oscar-winning performers, Riverdale star Charles Melton stands tallest with a phenomenal portrayal that captures an adult man trying to rationalize his painful past. From body language to speech mannerisms, he masterfully delivers a heartbreaking performance to convey the lost youth of somebody who had to grow up far too quickly. This all comes forth during a tremendous scene where he smokes weed with his son, as Joe’s worries about his children burst out as he knows the horrors they may encounter. While many are up in arms about Barbie missing out on specific nominations, it is more outrageous how Melton was overlooked for one of 2023’s best performances.

Aided by Marcelo Zarvos’ excellent score, May December is a creepy and unsettling work which takes a sly look at the lengths that actors can take, weaponizing past tragedies and horrific headlines to try and get awards recognition. By the end, all that Elizabeth’s efforts amount to is a trashy piece of exploitation, which is the funniest joke in the film that almost justifies its Golden Globes nominations in the Musical/Comedy category.

**** 4/5

May December was released on DVD and Blu-ray today, courtesy of Dazzler Media.

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