“May December” Turns Satiric Eye to Tabloid Scandals and Method Acting

A rambling Rorschach Test of psychological perceptions takes the spotlight as characters experience the twisty limits of Method Acting in the peculiar new Todd Haynes dark comedy May December (A-). Natalie Portman plays an actress visiting Savannah, Georgia on an indie film research mission to study a real-life woman played by Julianne Moore and her much younger husband portrayed by Charles Melton the details of their notorious tabloid romance which started when he was underage. The movie presents an escalating series of off-kilter sequences, bombastic music and brazenly theatrical conceits ranging from melodramatic monologues to acting in front of mirrors to speaking about technique to acting classes. Portman’s character finds herself going deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of intrigue and investigation, with increasingly thorny and unnerving results. She gets an iconic moment when she describes what filming an intimate scene in a movie is like and loses herself in the notion that sometimes it’s highly technical and sometimes you don’t want to admit you felt a little chemistry. All three primary actors are fabulous with the women trading secrets and lies and an increasingly similar appearance and relative newcomer Melton providing an object of unusual sympathy. Moore plumbs great depths of her sex offender character loosely based on the true story of Mary Kay Letourneau the audience may think it knows. Haynes has built a career on opulent domestic stories often with subtext of social persecution, and his latest is a brilliant remix of some of his most austere and audacious themes. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it will undoubtedly keep viewers guessing where one person’s scandal starts and another’s art fills in the gaps.

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