The post Criterion Prediction #278: May December, by Alexander Miller appeared first on Battleship Pretension.

Title: May December

Director: Todd Haynes 

Year: 2023

Cast: Julianne Moore, Natalie Portman, Chris Tenzis, Charles Melton

Synopsis: In order to prepare for her next role, an actress, Elizabeth (Portman), researches the woman she’ll be portraying, Gracie (Moore), whose taboo romance with her student years earlier put her and her underage subject, Joe (Melton), in the frontlines of a media sensation. As the tabloid furor dulls, the façade of their idyllic family life begins to crumble as the inclusion of Elizabeth dredges up buried emotions while excavating new realizations. 

Critique: Once the film starts, a dramatic musical cue swarms the senses (culled from Michel Legrand’s The Go-Between, which until writing this I associated with Wayne Wang‘s Chan is Missing). Then, preparing for a cookout, Moore looks into a refrigerator and, in an emphatic monotone, says, “I don’t think we have enough hot dogs..” The percussive piano chords resume with knowing emphasis. At this moment, I knew I was under the veil of security that can only be provided by Haynes’ vision of an uncanny queer Americana. Given the recentness of May December, I feel like a whole other layer of the film will present itself to me; just as all of his work is teeming with plural duality, there’s always subtext and allegory. But he seems to cross thematic, political and social boundaries while skirting (and, by default, pointing out) the transparency of genre along the way. It’s all there in his debut feature Poison, where TV documentaries, atomic age horror and a faithful Genet adaptation take us from the whimsical to the gritty with bursts of fantastical lyricism. Safe, an equally bewitching tale of environmental illness, disarms us with its fragrant allusions to auto-immune disorders, as well as the deathly fatalism that is in the corridors of patriarchal Anglo-domesticity. 

May December is a quietly moderated, multifaceted recollection of Haynes’ best qualities that owes just as much to Clouds of Sils Maria as it does The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant. There’s the weight of a moment and the potency of feminine energy transcending the semiotic barrier that exists between actor-viewer interaction. Voices and facial expressions take on an elemental substance; a sigh is like humidity and the awkward pause between words can either be the brewing anticipation of lightning or the sticky immobility of a late summer day where the sun won’t go down. The business of moviemaking seems flaccid and banal. The metrics of acting are both pompous and spiritual. Given our penchant for signals and virtuous directives, the lack of judgment on the film’s part allows us to feel damaged when we are tasked with our own moral assignment. It’s a little funny but there’s a distinctly familiar waft of an American tragedy that we can’t wash out of the scenery. 

Why It Belongs in the Collection: Todd Haynes + Netflix = Criterion Release. Usually there are more shades of gray, but this one seems like a done deal.

The post Criterion Prediction #278: May December, by Alexander Miller first appeared on Battleship Pretension.

The post Criterion Prediction #278: May December, by Alexander Miller appeared first on Battleship Pretension.

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