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Is the camp there to mask the seriousness of the subject in May December, or does director Todd Haynes use it to hide in plain sight that this supposedly darkly comedic tale is lacking a sting?

Throughout his career, director Todd Haynes has been exploring sexual taboos through the lens of specific film genres but in this schlocky nineties-style sudser about an adult woman (Julianne Moore) who started an ongoing relationship with a 13-year-old some twenty years ago he delivers a tepid tale.

May December feels cheap and underdeveloped from the opening minutes. Playing out as an elongated episode of something akin to Desperate Housewives the picture consistently broods and plots and hints at hidden secrets surely soon to be uncovered. It’s all elaborate, tongue-in-cheek fun and games with the promise that some meaningful message is waiting in the wings.

Alas that message never arrives. The only thing that lingers is the thematic chaos, the abundant campiness of the soft-spun filter images and the incessant sudden bursts of suspenseful music, as well as a narrative rhythm that never settles into a comfortable flow.

The interplay between Moore and Natalie Portman (as an actress who is shadowing her in preparation for a TV adaptation of the story) stretches believability and adds an extra layer of forced unease that hinders the movie more than it enhances it.

The one bright spot of May December is a performance by Charles Melton that – especially in the third act – suggests another, much more interesting movie about a man of 36 who sees his kids graduating high school and realises he never had a childhood himself. Now that’s a film I’d watch with a lot more interest than May December.

release: 2023

director: Todd Haynes

starring: Julianne Moore, Natalie Portman, Charles Melton, Cory Michael Smith


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