Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) is an actress working on her newest film. To prepare for her upcoming leading role, Elizabeth has the opportunity to study the real person she will be portraying, a woman named Gracie (Julianne Moore). It’s been over twenty years since Gracie made the headlines in the media, and her story shocked the nation. Now, as Elizabeth arrives in town, Gracie welcomes her into her world. The two women spend a fair amount of time together, with Elizabeth being able to ask various questions, study her mannerisms, and inquire more about her story and past. Elizabeth will also be able to pose questions to Gracie’s husband, Joe (Charles Melton).
However, as Elizabeth begins to study Gracie, tension and drama stir, and Elizabeth begins to dig deeper and deeper into Gracie’s life, including irrelevant details that don’t relate to the upcoming feature film. For Elizabeth, is it a desire to perform well in her movie, intense curiosity, a brewing obsession or something else? Either way, Elizabeth’s presence makes Gracie uneasy, and she starts to raise her suspicions and concerns. The outcomes for everyone involved are surprising.
May December is best described as a drama film with some mystery. Viewers journey with Elizabeth, and to begin with, we are unaware of Gracie’s story or what makes it suitable for a motion picture film. As Elizabeth questions and her level of curiosity begins to fester, we discover more and more details. It’s a story where I found myself both engaged and highly curious, and I loved seeing how the presence of Elizabeth caused such a ripple effect. Each scene carries a strong level of unpredictability, particularly whenever Elizabeth and Gracie share discussions. I watched and wondered if a scene would end in peace or if the line of questioning would trigger a form of conflict or emotion. There is plenty of drama within the story and strong characters who, given the situation, may do something regrettable.
Performances are stellar from both Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore. If I’m honest, I’m not always a significant fan of some of Natalie’s past work, but here, it’s impossible to deny the actress is delivering something unexpected. Sure, her character may seem kind, loving, and innocent, but I loved seeing her character desire a stronger connection to Gracie’s story and the past. Julianne Moore doesn’t disappoint and delivers an excellent range of emotion and suspicion. Her character felt like a ticking bomb, reacting abruptly and loudly when she felt lines were crossed when dealing with family conflict. It’s fun seeing Natalie Portman pretending to be Julianne Moore’s character at various points, and it is remarkable when the two share the screen. Lastly, the side performance from actor Charles Melton as Joe is compelling. His character has adequate screen time and provides a captivating performance. The soundtrack of this film by Marcelo Zarvos is something else, and I mean that positively. The music is tense, humorous, dramatic, etc. I would go as far as to say it was one of my favourite soundtrack experiences in cinema this year as I found it so joyous and clever.
Overall, May December carries an unexpected storyline that will be shocking for some viewers. At the same time, there’s an eagerness and desire from audiences to see the story played out. I loved the level of drama and mystery, and the level of playfulness among its leading characters. I found many scenes unpredictable and somewhat tense, and I couldn’t predict how some moments would end. Performances are stellar here, with both Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman working wonderfully, even more so whenever they share the screen. Watching all the events of this film unfold is solid entertainment.
May December (2023) is Now Available at BIFF 2023. For more information and session times, check out the web link here: https://biff.com.au/