Charles Melton Stands Out In Haynes’ Intense Dramedy [Cannes]

Jun 2, 2023

Todd Haynes’ quirky and cutthroat dramedy, May December, is an uncomfortably twisted examination on consent and the long-lasting effects it may have on a family. Through Julianne Moore’s character, Gracie, screenwriter Samy Burch elicits an uneasy truth about predators and sex offenders. Simultaneously, he takes a gentle approach in analyzing a victim’s mentality over the years. The outcome is unconventional character studies showcased through a campy lens and unsettling humor. It combines the best worlds of meticulous storytelling with exceptional acting — two components that leave a lasting impression on us.

Twenty years following a notorious tabloid romance, a married couple Gracie (Moore) and Joe Yoo (Charles Melton) adapt to new beginnings now that time has passed from their scandal. However, Hollywood actress Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman) swings into town to shadow their lives as she is set to star in a film based on their relationship. When the pressures of old memories and mistakes come back to haunt them, the Yoo’s relationship begins to fold under pressure. Will Elizabeth get all the information she needs to make her new film a resounding success without stepping on toes? Will Joe and Gracie be able to withstand the reignited traumas of their past?

Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman in May December

It takes legitimate skill to present topics as heavy as the ones in May December in the way that Haynes and Burch do, but it is done so almost effortlessly. The film never feels exploitative, nor does it ever feel like these concepts aren’t taken seriously. By centering a story on a heinous sex offense while examining our human need to understand, there’s a genuineness that comes with this work despite its humorous undertones. The film is, by and large, a well put together dissection of narcissism and the resulting inability to face accountability.

Through Moore and Portman’s characters, Haynes and Burch explore these themes by visualizing these women as the opposite sides of the same coin. Moore’s Gracie lives in a dream world, one in which she pretends that everyone has seemingly forgiven her for her past. Portman’s Elizabeth does everything in her power to just get the story — budding frictions and emotional damages be damned. These women are selfish at their cores, destroying livelihoods in the process by getting what they need at the end of the day. And to see them judge one another unabashedly is intensely comedic.

Natalie Portman and Charles Menton in May December

By its description alone, some may find it difficult to grasp how a concept as serious as the ones presented in the film could be presented with such lightheartedness without crossing offensive barriers. However, the filmmakers behind May December do so quite nicely. It all works, in part, because of the incredible acting by the ensemble, but Charles Melton is the true standout. It’s no easy feat to realize what silenced victimhood truly is, but Melton manages with the utmost sincerity and precision. And as expected, Portman and Moore are stellar opposite one another and play off each other like a strikingly pungent game of cat and mouse.

An intense analysis on character, scandal, and deceit, May December is delightfully tormenting and entertaining. Burch’s script tackles heavy themes unlike anything we’ve seen in quite some time. Luckily, it’s as entertaining as it is insightful, using humorous undertones to highlight the dangerous personalities of those who offend. And thanks to that eccentric and campy score to match the tone of the story, Haynes’ latest has all the elements needed to confuse us as much as it entertains and educates, which takes us on a fascinating watching experience.

May December premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival on May 20. The film is 113 minutes and not yet rated.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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