May December Movie Review

Gayle Sequeira

Peppered with Moments of Soap-Opera

Director Todd Haynes's May December might be peppered with moments of soap-opera melodrama, but the genre it gradually shifts into, while examining people who end up as fodder for the true-crime mill, is that of a horror movie unfolding in broad daylight.

Quick to Unfold

Initial shots depict stretches of sunny suburbia and backyard barbecues, before revealing the community as one where ominous packages could end up outside your house and a "beloved" neighbour just happens to be a groomer and pedophile.

Based on a True Story

Loosely based on the case of Mary Kay Letourneau, an American teacher jailed for grooming her 12-year-old student in 1997, May December picks up with Gracie and Joe 23 years later, married with three kids.

Tension Between Portman and Moore

A large part of May December is driven by the tension between these two women, one of whom is determined to live an unexamined life at any cost, the other whose job it is to meticulously pick it apart at the seams.

Theatrical and Stagey

Both play at the truth but have built their houses upon foundations of artifice. The film's discordant score and dramatic zoom-ins all add to a sense that we're watching something theatrical and stagey.

Haynes's visual metaphors

veer towards bluntness — he positions Gracie, raised to be a hunter, against Joe, who grows into a nurturer — but the tender imagery of the latter induces a pang. Mirror shots recur often in May December, a movie with characters so incapable of self-reflection.