The Butterflies of Savannah

May December

Director: Todd Haynes

Cast: Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton, Corey Michael Smith, Andrea Frankle, Gabriel Chung, Elizabeth Yu, D. W. Moffett, Kelvin Han Yee

Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Scandal in all its intimacy is what binds a community together in auteur director Todd Haynes fabulous new film May December starring Oscar winners Natalie Portman (Black Swan) and Julianne Moore (Still Alice).

Far From Heaven and Carol director Todd Haynes makes cinema an art form in this stylized and lush melodrama about a Southern tabloid queen Gracie, wonderfully played by Julianne Moore, who becomes the subject matter for a TV film after the sexually adventurous actress Elizabeth comes to interview Gracie and her complicated history.

In a syrupy and toxic screenplay by Samy Burch, which would make Tennessee Williams proud and Truman Capote salivate at the salacious details, May December is gorgeously set in Savannah, Georgia in 2015, twenty years after a tawdry scandal erupted when Gracie a 35 year old married woman slept with and got herself pregnant by a 13 year old boy and then went onto marry him when he was of age. Gracie and Joe’s scandalous affair started in the back store room of a rundown pet shop in a strip mall in Savannah and after a bout in prison for sleeping with a minor, Gracie and Joe now twenty years on are welcoming their children back home to Savannah for graduation.

The handsome, strong and silent Joe is beautifully played by Charles Melton who definitely deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor as Melton perfectly encapsulates the psychological state of a man child, a man at 36, but inside still a child, bewildered and confused that he fathered children while he was still a teenage and to a woman almost three times his age.

Joe acts more like a big brother to his three children than a father, while Julianne Moore’s Gracie acts as the scheming and manipulative mother figure micromanaging not only her  young husband but also the wreckage of her past life, as she expertly manoeuvres herself around the penetrating gaze of the ambitious but provocative Elizabeth, a star turn by Natalie Portman who has the acting ability to portray psychologically complex characters as she did in her Oscar winning performance in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.

Todd Haynes relishes having two powerful female stars as the two opposing main characters, sniping at each with a bitchy relish as they mockingly try to remain friends while both planning ways of exacting revenge on one another. Portman and Moore are superb in this dynamic, eating up men in their way and manipulating both their circumstances to their own maximum and sometimes lustful benefit, like the captivating monarch butterflies that are released into the humid Savannah air.  

Corey Michael Smith (Carol) is electrifying in a few brief scenes as Gracie’s damaged oldest son from her first marriage Georgie who uses the power dynamic between his mother as the subject and Elizabeth as her observer to best serve his own creepy agenda.

Bizarre and strangely uncomfortable, Todd Haynes creates a garish melodrama on contemporary sexual power dynamics in this fascinating film May December whose title in American English is a term which refers to a much older person taking a much younger lover, as tawdry and exhilarating as that can be.

May December is a provocative film, sexy in a slightly off kilter sort of way and gets a film rating of 8 out of 10. Not every viewer will enjoy this film, but those that do will appreciate its compelling originality and its deliberate sneer at the conventional expectations of socially acceptable sexual interactions.

Comments are closed.

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
December 2023
  • Read More
    Different providers offer different cell phones, so take a look at the options from each provider to choose the right one for you. You may also want to look into any promotions that the providers have to offer, such as free cell phones in exchange for signing a contract. Tags: 2gmhass90