Friday June 2nd, 2023
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Cannes 2023: Julianne Moore & Natalie Portman Shine in ‘May December’

Julianne Moore delivers one of the best performances of her career in ‘May December’.

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It seems that every time Todd Haynes works with Julianne Moore, they can do no wrong. Safe and Far From Heaven are both exceptional genre films that benefit tremendously from a powerhouse performance by Moore. Playing Gracie Atherton-Yoo, a sex offender on the verge of a psychotic breakdown, Julianne Moore delivers one of the best performances of her career in Haynes’ latest feature, May December.

The same can be said about Natalie Portman, who plays the nosey actress shadowing her every move to prepare for a role. Set in Georgia, Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman) gets invited to Gracie’s estate and is given the freedom to ask any questions for her research. We begin to realise that Gracie is not entirely right in the head, having no remorse or regret for her past affair with a 13-year-old boy. Both characters seem to be polar opposites, but as the film goes on, they begin to resemble one another. There are clear nods here to Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, although May December is a much lighter fare.

Make no mistake, despite the dark material, Haynes’ May December is surprisingly campy in the most delightful way. Some of the outrageous lines from Gracie had me laughing out loud in a packed theatre. And even though the dialogue is sharp witted and searingly discomforting, I do believe the film is flawed. Some of the side characters come across as one-dimensional, and I kept waiting for Haynes to turn the awkwardness up a notch, but he never did.The story could’ve delved deeper into the psyche of both characters, and at times, it does feel like the film was rushed. That said, I expect this movie to be an awards player at the end of the year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it grows a cult following as time goes by.

With May December, it seems like Todd Haynes wanted to delve into lighter material following his much more serious and polished endeavour from last year, Tar. May December is a much easier watch, thanks in part to Portman and Moore humorously and expertly playing off each other.

May December screened at the main competition and was nominated for the Palme d’Or.