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May December: Todd Haynes' seductive puzzle challenges viewers to unpack moral decisions

Director Todd Haynes' "May December" is a captivating psychodrama about an actress studying a woman's scandalous life for a film role.

Director Todd Haynes' "May December" is a complex and captivating psychodrama that delves into the twisted and intriguing story of Elizabeth, an actress played by Natalie Portman, who is studying Gracie, portrayed by Julianne Moore, as research for a film she is making about Gracie's scandalous life. The film is set in 2015 and centers around Gracie, who made headlines in 1992 after her affair with Joe, who was a seventh grader at the time, was discovered. Gracie gave birth to their daughter, Honor, while she was incarcerated, and the scandal continues to have repercussions two decades later.

As the film unfolds, Elizabeth arrives at Gracie's home in Savannah to observe and interview Gracie, Joe, and others connected to the scandal, including Elizabeth's ex-husband Tom, her son Georgie, Mr. Henderson, the owner of the pet store where the affair was discovered, and Elizabeth's lawyer Morris Sperber. Each interview reveals new insights into Gracie, and Elizabeth absorbs the information like a sponge, seeking to understand the truth behind Gracie's actions.

"May December" is deliberate in how it reveals information, leaving the audience questioning what is fact and what is fiction. As Elizabeth asks probing questions, she uncovers new layers of Gracie's character, but also faces uncertainty about how much Gracie is revealing and whether she is manipulating the truth. The film masterfully blurs the lines between reality and deception, keeping the audience on edge as they navigate the complex web of relationships and motivations.

Haynes creates an atmosphere of unease and uncertainty in every scene, using mirrors to reflect the characters' similarities and differences, and Marcelo Zarvos' score to establish a sinister mood. The film explores the dynamics of seduction and manipulation, as Elizabeth seeks to gain the trust of Gracie and her family, while Gracie's enigmatic nature becomes increasingly apparent.

The performances of the lead actors, Portman and Moore, drive the film, with Portman's portrayal of Elizabeth's fascination with Gracie's character and Moore's depiction of Gracie's complex nature creating a compelling dynamic. Supporting performances from Charles Melton as Joe and Cory Michael Smith as Georgie add depth to the film, as the characters grapple with the consequences of their past actions.

"May December" is a thought-provoking puzzle that challenges viewers to unpack the moral decisions and consequences of a scandal from a distance. Haynes skillfully explores the characters in a way that Elizabeth only hopes to, creating a wickedly entertaining and deliciously complex film that keeps the audience engaged until the very end.

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