We round up the reviews for Todd Haynes’ new film starring Julianne Moore &Natalie Portman.
The Guardian: **** “May December is delivered with a cool, shrewd precision by Todd Haynes, Julianne Moore carries off her dysfunctional queenliness very watchably and Natalie Portman has a great scene where she gives a lecture on acting to Gracie’s children’s high school drama class. She even talks about how sex scenes can gradually become authentically sexy for the participants: “Are you pretending to feel pleasure – or pretending not to feel pleasure?” Well, the pleasure is real here.”
The Observer: **** “Serpentine in its plotting, queasily unsettling in its subject matter, and very, very funny, Todd Haynes’s latest picture is as deft a tonal juggling act as you will see anywhere this year.”
The Arts Desk: ** “There’s much to admire here – May December features impressive performances from Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman, and director Todd Haynes shows his mastery of classic Sirkian style. But disappointingly, this comes across as a movie that aims to critique media exploitation of a scandal while indulging in its own manipulation.”
Roger Ebert.com: **** “Julianne Moore’s performance is so interesting because, at a certain point, you have to face the possibility that there isn’t more to Gracie than meets the eye. She doesn’t feel she did anything wrong; she loves her husband. She talks to Elizabeth, having no idea how “off” she seems, considering the circumstances. “I was very sheltered, and he matured very fast,” she says. Does she have any idea how that sounds? If you’re looking for answers, Julianne Moore is not here to provide them on a platter. It’s fascinating, bold work.”
The Independent: **** “Todd Haynes has directed a film with so many deliciously clashing styles that it’s as much a trashy soap as it is a torrid, probing melodrama.”
Entertainment Weekly: “As he did in Safe, Haynes carefully constructs a cinematic world in May December where the environment reflects (and perhaps inspires) the characters’ feelings.”
Variety: “A heady director whose entire oeuvre feels ripe for film-studies dissertations, Haynes makes movies not merely to be watched, but to be analyzed and deconstructed after the fact. From the rich Douglas Sirkian pastiche of “Far From Heaven” to the queer twist on classical “woman’s pictures” provided by “Carol,” his style can be chilly and distancing. Not so “May December.” As layered and infinitely open-to-interpretation as any of his films, it’s also the most generous and direct, beginning not with Ingmar Bergman references (those come later), but with ripe hothouse footage of monarch butterflies, underscored by a lush reworking of Michel Legrand’s piano theme from “The Go-Between.” The potential for passion, transformation and subversion hangs heavy in the air.”
Empire:**** “Not everything works, with some symbolism perhaps a little too blunt. But it’s the performances where May December shines, and opposite two acting powerhouses, Melton is particularly impressive: his shrewd, small performance is the film’s emotional nucleus, breaking us out of the salacious stylings and exposing us to the damage these two women — wolves in sheep’s clothing — are inflicting upon him.”
Evening Standard: **** “Like Elizabeth, the audience is encouraged to interpret and analyse the behaviour in front of them. But the film asks if our desire to “know” a character is so we can understand them, or because we want to redeem them.”
The Telegraph: ***** “The Oscar winners are brilliant in Todd Haynes’s disturbing and fascinatingly-layered Hollywood tale about consent, denial and exploitation.”
May December is out in cinemas now.