In the realm of Netflix’s vast library of true crime content, Todd Haynes has artfully unveiled a fascinating and darkly humorous gem that is bound to leave you questioning the very nature of our obsession with sensational crime stories.
“May December” is a movie that not only captivates with its stunning visuals and star-studded cast but also digs deep into the uncomfortable territory of our insatiable thirst for true crime narratives.
At first glance, “May December” might seem like another Netflix docudrama plucked from the headlines. However, it’s not your typical true crime tale. With Todd Haynes at the helm and Academy Award-winning actresses Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in the lead roles, this film transcends the tabloid tawdriness to explore the darker facets of our society’s fascination with such stories.
A Familiar Tale
The parallels between “May December” and the infamous Mary Kay Letourneau story are hard to ignore. Both narratives involve a thirtysomething white American woman engaging in a scandalous relationship with a seventh-grade boy, resulting in a conviction for rape, a prison birth, and ultimately, marriage once the sentence is served. However, these similarities are not the film’s primary focus.
Set two decades after the scandal, the film follows Gracie Atherton (Julianne Moore) and Joe Yoo (Charles Melton) as they attempt to lead a relatively quiet life in their suburban home, raising children, and dealing with the aftermath of their notorious past. That is until an actress, Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman), barges into their lives with the intention of turning their story into provocative art.
Julianne Moore’s Subtle Villainy
Julianne Moore delivers a remarkable performance as Gracie, shrouding her character in a façade of gentleness. Draped in soft colors and sporting a loving smile, Gracie comes across as a nurturing mother and wife. However, beneath the sugary exterior lies a manipulative personality that gradually emerges.
One of the most intriguing aspects is Gracie’s voice, which features a curious lisp. Moore employs this lisp strategically, using it to soften her manipulative tactics and make her seem less threatening. It’s a fascinating and calculated portrayal of a complex character.
Natalie Portman’s Satirical Brilliance
Natalie Portman’s Elizabeth Berry is the quintessential Hollywood opportunist, using Gracie’s story as a stepping stone to escape her mundane television career. Her portrayal of a self-centered actress with a voracious appetite for the darker details of the case is both chilling and satirical.
Elizabeth’s interactions with Joe and her conversations with a producer reveal her complete lack of emotional investment in the story. It’s all a means to an end for her, and her ruthless approach is the source of dark humor throughout the film.
A Scathing Critique of True Crime
“May December” cleverly dissects our collective fascination with true crime narratives. Elizabeth becomes a mirror reflecting how Hollywood often exploits tragedy for personal gain, all while maintaining an air of high-mindedness. The film makes its audience complicit in the ruthlessness of true crime storytelling, as we find ourselves chuckling at the remove that the characters display.
The movie pokes fun at the concept of high-art true crime, distinguishing itself from the sensationalism of other Netflix offerings. It’s not just another rehashing of grisly true crime details; instead, it delves into our morbid curiosity and fascination with the personal lives of criminals and survivors.
No Heroes, Only Tangled Obsessions
In contrast to other true crime movies that often feature heroic figures, “May December” offers no heroes. It’s a tale of twisted obsessions, dark and deeply human but devoid of humanity. The film does not offer the comforting resolution of justice served, leaving viewers with a haunting sense that the darkness of the human psyche runs deep.
In this sense, “May December” offers a refreshing departure from the glossy, sensationalized true crime content that often saturates streaming platforms. It boldly confronts us with the unsettling truth that the spiral of human depravity never truly ends.
In a sea of true crime content, “May December” stands out as a thought-provoking and satirical exploration of our obsession with sensational crime stories.
It’s a film that challenges our preconceptions, leaves us questioning our own complicity, and provides a sobering glimpse into the darker corners of our collective fascination with true crime. Todd Haynes and the talented cast have crafted a must-watch movie that’s as elegant as it is thought-provoking.