Todd Haynes has a knack for dealing with female stars. I would even call him the New Age George Cukor in that regard. Whether in Carol with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara or his HBO limited series Mildred Pierce with Kate Winslet or his homage to the director of so many so-called “women’s movies” of the 1950s, Douglas Sirk Far from heaven With Julianne Moore, he seems to be in his comfort zone with women. That was never so obvious as in his last, May Decembera deliciously entertaining showcase for Natalie Portman and Moore (her and Haynes’ fourth film together), which just had its world premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.
The title is okay, but when I saw the film I kept thinking that a really great title from Hollywood’s past could have been used for it imitation of life by the aforementioned Sirk, not that this film has anything else in common with that 1959 Weiner, but its title does in terms of the basic concept here – about a television actress who travels to Savannah, Georgia for a few days with spend researching her latest role. She plays a real-life 36-year-old wife and mother who made tabloid furore 20 years earlier for her affair and eventual marriage to a 13-year-old boy.
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I was struck by the premise, really the stuff of classic Hollywood melodrama but with a smart contemporary twist. Portman, also a producer who brought the Samy Burch script to Haynes, plays TV series star Elizabeth Berry, who was cast in an independent film as Gracie Atherton-Yoo (Moore), who scandalized the world and has been on every tabloid Cover landed, went to prison, gave birth to twins and married a man named Joe Yoo (Charles Melton) who was 23 years his junior. Now they’re still married, devoted, and have twins Mary (Elizabeth Yu) and Charlie (Gabriel Chong) just graduating from high school. Berry shows up in Savannah at this point to do personal research with the person who will play her. She slowly manages to ingratiate herself, first at the barbecue and later in other ways, as this Hollywood star becomes, if only for a short time, a member of the family so to speak. Berry approaches this the same way a reporter would, trying to learn everything she can from and about Gracie. It’s awkward, of course, but Burch’s screenplay reveals one piece at a time, painting a much larger and more complex psychological picture with each stroke.
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Berry tries to get information from Joe; She visits the pet store where the two met, speaks with the owner, and visits the storage room where they had sex. she drinks coffee with her ex-husband Tom (DW Moffet); helps Gracie choose a prom dress for Mary; meets the local police officer (Lawrence Arancia) and friend who was the first person Mary called after the affair; and she meets Gracie’s firstborn, Georgie (Cory Michael Smith), who is a bit confused. They all hold keys that Elizabeth believes could affect their performance.
More importantly, why did all this happen? Does Gracie, who we can see being prone to violent outbursts, have mental health issues or was she just incredibly needy and looking for eternal happiness? She lives in a small island town that has been whispering behind her back for years. That’s very obvious, even though she runs her own cake-baking business, but doesn’t have a large clientele, Elizabeth learns. Joe seems like a good guy, but once the wall is down Elizabeth will learn more about him than she could have imagined. He has his own problems. The kids and extended family have their issues too, and always have, but the really fascinating things happen between Elizabeth and the woman who will play her – most notably a scene in front of a mirror where Gracie teaches the star how to use her make-up. up.
Mirrors in general have a lot to do with this film: entire conversations are shot in front of them, all the better for the emulation of a life that’s due to start filming in three weeks. If you think about it, Gracie and Elizabeth could both be more than they seem at first measured meetings, and since Gracie points out to Elizabeth that the actress is the same age as when the affair began, well, it seems that the ” May December” of everything it really is them. But the most fun is watching it all unfold slowly. You could see Cukor or Sirk holding on to this material, just as Haynes did when he inspired this screenwriter’s first produced screenplay.
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Some of it is hilarious, particularly a scene where Portman goes through video auditions for potential co-stars, all awkward 13-year-olds with braces, etc. She cringes at the thought that she’s going to use them to film sex scenes with kids. Also, Georgie, an aspiring musician, is basically trying to blackmail her into getting a job as a music supervisor for the film (he read a list of film jobs and liked this one) in exchange for promising he won’t go to the Press is going to ruin the film when it comes out. “I really know how to choose good songs for films,” promises the easygoing tone of a young man. Portman’s reaction is priceless. Gracie’s collapse is also quite spectacular because a customer canceled an order for a cake.
You can not, can not Doing better than having Portman and Moore take center stage with such juicy roles. Watching their game of cat and mouse again confirms that these two Oscar winners are as good as it gets. Melton (Reggie on Riverdale) She’s genuinely believable and vulnerable here as the 33-something-year-old version of a kid who’s succumbed in the first place, though only whoever seduced whom seems to be a bone of contention between Gracie and Joe. Smith who was there carol, amusingly nails Georgie.
The music is great, and it should be, as Haynes fell in love with the late great Michel Legrand’s 1971 score The in between, a film by Julie Christie, and had it adapted by composer Marcelo Zavros. It works on all levels of the film, especially as it gets more and more mysterious and revealing as time goes on.
The film is looking for distribution. Rocket Science presents and multiple production companies are involved including Gloria Sanchez, Killer Films and Mountain A in association with Taylor & Dodge and Project Infinity. Producers are Portman, Sophie Mas, Christine Vachon, Pamela Koffler, Grant S. Johnson, Tyler W. Konney, Jessica Elbaum and Will Ferrell.
Title: May December
Festival: Cannes (Competition)
Director: Todd Haynes
Script: Samy Burch
Commercial agent: CAA Media Finance, UTA Independent Film Group
Pour: Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton, Cory Michael Smith, Elizabeth Yu, Gabriel Chong, Piper Curda, DW Moffet, Lawrence Arancio
Duration: 1 hr 53 min