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Laramie Movie Scope: May December

Piercing the veil of self delusion

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 17, 2023 – An actress, Elizabeth Berry (played by Natalie Portman of “V for Vendetta”) travels to Savannah, Georgia to interview a notorious woman, Gracie Atherton-Yoo (played by Julianne Moore of “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” who had an affair with Joe Yoo, a 13-year-old boy, and later married him. Berry is using the trip to learn how to play Gracie in a movie.

Berry meets Gracie, who now has been married to Joe Yoo (played by Charles Melton of “The Sun Is Also a Star”) for over 20 years, and is welcomed by Gracie to do her acting research. This includes interviewing Joe You and several of Gracie's children, both from her marriage to Joe (one of her children was born in prison after she was convicted of child molestation) and from her previous marriage to Tom Atherton (played by D.W. Moffett of “Stealing Beauty”).

Every person she talks to has a different version of what actually happened between Gracie and Joe and what is going on now, years after the scandalous affair. Gracie claims everything is all right, but the further that Berry digs into the story, the more emotional turmoil she finds.

One traumatic encounter between Berry and Joe seems to have a dramatic impact on Joe, who begins to reconsider his whole relationship to Gracie, who seems to treat him like a servant. Joe not only does numerous errands for Gracie, but is required to service Gracie's frequent bouts of depression and feelings of being persecuted. Gracie puts on a front of emotional stability but is actually quite fragile.

Berry also interviews Gracie's lawyer, visits the pet store where Gracie and underage Joe were caught having sex, and talks with Gracie's son Georgie (Cory Michael Smith of “Carol”) who seems the most angry and disturbed of all the people she meets in Savannah. Georgie was once a schoolmate and friend of Joe Yoo, back before he found out about Joe's affair with Gracie.

Berry's investigations seem to reveal a tangled web of hidden emotional turmoil, and conflicting accounts, but in the end, she seems satisfied that she has found what she needs for her performance. This movie features so-called “method acting” research — to facilitate an actor trying to emotionally inhabit the personality she is studying. It is also an exposé of the lingering emotional damage caused by Gracie's child abuse years ago.

The acting in this film, now streaming on Netflix, is superb by the whole cast, and the screenplay by Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik is very clever indeed, weaving together different stories and different genres. This is one of the best movies by acclaimed director Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven” and “Dark Waters”). This film rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2023 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]