May December (2023): An Unbalanced and Provocative Film by Todd Haynes
Todd Haynes is a renowned filmmaker who has a unique ability to delve into the darkness that lies within everyday life. His latest film, “May December,” is a testament to his talent for highlighting the emptiness that can be found in the most ordinary rituals, and the horror that lurks beneath the surface of societal norms. In this article, we will explore the unsettling and provocative nature of Haynes’ film, diving deep into its themes, characters, and the emotions it elicits.
The Horrors of Everyday Life
Haynes is a master at uncovering the horror that can be found in the most mundane aspects of existence. He exposes the emptiness that lies beneath the conformist trappings of modern society and challenges viewers to examine their own lives and the rituals they engage in without question. “May December” is a prime example of Haynes’ ability to shed light on the darker side of everyday life.
The Influence of 1950s Melodramas
Haynes’ filmmaking style has been shaped, in part, by the melodramas of the 1950s. These films, with their psychosexual Technicolor torment, have left an indelible mark on Haynes’ artistic vision. In “May December,” he incorporates elements of these melodramas to express emotional states of being and create a sense of unease that permeates the entire film.
The Void Underneath Conformist Trappings
One of the central themes of “May December” is the void that exists beneath the surface of conformist trappings. Haynes exposes the hollowness of societal expectations and reveals the horrors that can lurk behind closed doors. This exploration of the void adds depth and complexity to the film, forcing viewers to question their own assumptions about what lies beneath the facade of normalcy.
Unbalancing the Audience
“May December” is a film that deliberately unbalances its audience. Haynes creates a sense of danger and unease that permeates every scene, making it feel dangerous to even joke about the serious subject matter. This perversion of fun, the precariousness of the situation, adds to the film’s unsettling power and keeps viewers on the edge of their seats throughout.
Elizabeth Berry: A Complex Protagonist
The character of Elizabeth Berry, played by Natalie Portman, serves as the entry point for viewers into the disturbing world of “May December.” As a television actress who is preparing to portray the real-life Gracie Atherton in a movie, Elizabeth finds herself immersed in a deeply unsettling story. Her journey throughout the film is a testament to Haynes’ ability to craft complex and engaging characters.
The Unremarkable Woman with a Shocking Story
Gracie Atherton, portrayed by Julianne Moore, is initially seen as an unremarkable woman whose main concern is the lack of hot dogs. However, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Gracie’s past is anything but ordinary. Her affair with a fellow employee who was in the seventh grade when they first met, her time in prison, and her subsequent marriage to this man raise numerous moral and ethical questions that will challenge viewers’ perceptions.
Layers of Strangeness and Subjectivity
“May December” adds layers upon layers of strangeness and subjectivity to the narrative. Inspired by real-life cases like that of Mary Kay Letourneau, the film refuses to provide simple answers or make declarative statements about the events portrayed. Instead, it deliberately confuses and disorients the audience, leaving them grasping for solid ground amidst the shifting tectonic plates of the story.
Challenging Moral Judgment
The objective appalling nature of the events depicted in “May December” naturally elicits a demand for moral judgment. However, as the film delves deeper into the complexities of its characters and their relationships, the certainty fades away, and the audience’s moral compass is left scrambling to find firm footing. This deliberate confusion is both unsettling and thought-provoking, forcing viewers to confront their own preconceived notions about right and wrong.
Unsettling Confusion in a Film of this Subject
A film that explores such controversial and sensitive subject matter is bound to leave its audience feeling unsettled. “May December” does just that. As viewers grapple with the confusion and ambiguity presented on screen, they are forced to confront uncomfortable truths and challenge their own deeply ingrained beliefs. It is precisely this unsettling confusion that makes “May December” a remarkable and thought-provoking film.
“May December” is an unbalancing and provocative film that delves into the horror of everyday life and exposes the void beneath conformist trappings. Todd Haynes’ masterful storytelling, influenced by 1950s melodramas, creates a sense of danger and unsettling unease throughout the film. The complex characters, layered narratives, and deliberate confusion challenge the audience’s moral judgment and leave them questioning their own beliefs. “May December” is a testament to Haynes’ talent and artistry, marking it as one of his most noteworthy films to date.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Is “May December” based on a true story?
No, “May December” is not based on a specific true story. However, it draws inspiration from real-life cases and explores controversial themes that have been seen in society.
2. What makes “May December” unsettling?
The unsettling nature of “May December” lies in its ability to confront audiences with uncomfortable truths and challenge their moral compass. The deliberate confusion and ambiguity presented in the film create an unsettling viewing experience.
3. How does Todd Haynes create a sense of danger in the film?
Todd Haynes establishes a sense of danger in “May December” through his use of atmospheric elements, intense performances, and a narrative that constantly keeps the audience on their toes. The serious subject matter discussed in the film adds to the overall sense of danger and unease.
4. What is the significance of the title, “May December”?
The term “May-December” is often used to describe a romantic relationship between partners with a significant age difference. In the context of the film, the title alludes to the unconventional and controversial relationship between Gracie and Joe, which becomes a central focus of the story.
5. How does “May December” challenge societal norms?
“May December” challenges societal norms by exploring taboo subjects such as age differences in relationships and the complexities of consent. The film prompts viewers to question their own assumptions and preconceived notions about what is considered acceptable in society.