Unveiling “May-December”: A Brutal Look at Hollywood, Love & Truth

During this year’s Hollywood awards season, one movie received an unexpectedly mediocre response. The film “May 12”, directed by “Carol” director Todd Haynes and co-starring two Oscar-winning actresses Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore, unexpectedly missed all the major Oscar awards. Competition, only received a consolation nomination for the Best Original Screenplay Award, which obviously did not meet people’s expectations for it.

However, if you actually watch the movie, you’ll realize that Hollywood’s distaste for it is understandable. By telling the story of an actress who comes into contact with the real-life prototype of the character she is about to play, Hines and screenwriters Alex Mechanic and Sammy Birch debunk too many myths that surround the nature of Hollywood. The mask exposes the hypocrisy, superficiality, arrogance and substantive futility hidden in the dark to the audience one by one. Such a film that denies a certain creative practice that is common in Hollywood awards season, and even denies the entire creative mechanism of Hollywood, is destined not to be loved by most of its peers, but it will be an eye-opener for outsiders.

“May-December” has a title that is difficult to understand at first glance (people familiar with British and American culture can detect the implicit meaning of love between young and old), and is full of a weird sense of dislocation. And dislocation is indeed one of the themes of this movie. After all, at the core of the story is the love affair between a man and a woman with a 23-year age difference. The 59-year-old Gracie (Julianne Moore), when she was a married woman 23 years ago, had an affair with Joe (Charles Melton), a 13-year-old boy who worked in a pet store, for which she was She was convicted and imprisoned, but gave birth to Joe’s child in prison, and married Joe immediately after being released from prison. Today, 23 years later, she and Joe seem to be living happily in the charming seaside community of Savannah, Georgia. .

But Gracie and Joe’s relationship is actually fraught with problems. Although the two are friends in the community, most neighbors still avoid the pair, who were the protagonists of a national scandal more than 20 years ago, and even express their dissatisfaction with the two in a way that borders on harassment. At the same time, Joe, who has been under Gracie’s emotional control for a long time, seems to have stopped growing mentally very early and is more like the less mature party in his interactions with his children. As for Gracie, who has lived in this small town for a long time, she has to face the embarrassing situation of being caught between her original family and her current family: the two families often gather at the same restaurant, and her grandson from her previous husband and her The same age as Joe’s children and attending the same high school. When Gracie and Joe’s two children are about to leave home and start college life, various problems caused by dislocation and inequality in their marriage are also eager to break out.

To further complicate matters, a Hollywood actor who will play Gracie has been added to the story. Actor Elizabeth (played by Natalie Portman), who has encountered a bottleneck in the field of TV dramas and is eager to seek a breakthrough, is deeply involved in a movie adapted from the incestuous relationship between Gracie and Joe, so she made a special trip to Savannah visited the two and their relatives and friends to do various research for his performance. Elizabeth, who has been immersed in Hollywood for many years, handles interpersonal affairs with ease, but she is too impatient, and her utilitarianism will still be exposed in various subtle moments: when Gracie and Joe’s youngest daughter asked her why she took the role, she thought When it was a bad guy role, she didn’t hear the subtext to refute the question itself. Instead, she bluntly said that as long as it was a good role, she would rush to play it; after winning Joe’s trust through various words and having an affair with him, she reached the point where For the purpose of “experience life”, she inadvertently refers to the relationship between Joe and Gracie as “this kind of story”, causing the fragile and sensitive Joe to break down emotionally: “Story? You call this a story? This is fucking mine. Life!”

Despite all its dislocations, May-December is also a film about mirrors (the film is filled with visual motifs about mirrors). The fictional relationship between Gracie and Joe is related to the real-life teacher-student love scandal between elementary school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau and her 12-year-old student Willie Fuarao that swept the tabloids across the United States at the end of the last century. A loosely corresponding mirror image relationship; while Gracie, who was wary of Elizabeth but desperately needed funds from Hollywood to maintain her middle-class life, and Gracie, who came to the small town of Savannah to find out the truth, got lost in the various mists that hid the truth. There is another layer of mirror relationship between Elizabeth and Joe, who were born in the same year but had completely different destinies due to accidents. In addition, the film “May 12” itself has an intertextual mirror image relationship with the Palme d’Or award-winning film “The Secret Service” made more than 50 years ago about an underage boy’s obsession with an adult woman. : The solemn soundtrack in the film that sounds a bit inconsistent is adapted from the soundtrack composed by French composer Michel Legrand in “The Secret Service”. Various correspondences form a maze-like corridor of mirrors, in which identities, allusions and hidden meanings are reflected and collided, almost making people dizzy.

However, the final direction of the maze of “May and December” is nothingness. Elizabeth thought that her tireless (although sometimes unethical) pursuit and investigation would lead to the truth about Gracie, but in the end she discovered that she still knew nothing about Gracie; Joe wasted his time in a dominated emotional relationship. For more than twenty years, it was not until he was no longer young and became an empty-nest father that he really began to think about the direction of his life. But at this time, he could no longer live independently from Gracie; as for the character who actually controlled everything, Lacey seems to be the master of her own destiny, but in fact, even she herself does not understand what her motivation is for insisting on maintaining the marriage: after all, as she said, it is out of true love between the two. , or is it just because she had to pretend to be fat after experiencing the scandal and continue to fight with the whole world?

On the level of a search for meaning, May-December can be frustrating. It deconstructs the vanity of Hollywood’s creative mechanism, deconstructs the falsehood of all movies with the title of “adapted from real people and true events”, and deconstructs the essence of most marriage relationships, but does not build anything to rely on. But what this expression exposes may be the hollow essence of American pop culture as a bubble. Therefore, the mirrors of “May and December” ultimately reflect the audience themselves: Are we like these people in the film, who are clearly facing the naked truth, but still turn a blind eye to it, preferring to believe that it is our own Masks and illusions constructed by delusions?

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