Run time: 117 mins
Todd Hayne’s disarming and fiendishly dark comedy-drama.
Arriving in Savannah, movie star Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) is researching her role in a film about Gracie (Julianne Moore), who was imprisoned for her affair with now-husband Joe more than 20 years ago when she was 36 and he was 13. Elizabeth meets their teen twins, Gracie’s ex-husband and their troublemaking adult son Georgie. Gracie, a master manipulator, has a way of hiding herself while quietly controlling everyone around her, but Elizabeth may have a few tricks of her own.
Layered and provocative, this is a melodrama infused with a whole host of mystery-thriller tones. Haynes plays cleverly with perspective to explore the ways we try to understand others, sympathising with them and merging their experiences with our own.
Portman and Moore are terrific, inventively mimicking each other to reflect how these two women are interacting on multiple levels. Both of them are concealing their emotional reactions to the things they are learning about each other and themselves. These are unusually nuanced performances that pull the audience in deeper and deeper, adding to the underlying tension. A captivating fusion of melodrama and camp, reflecting the allure of tabloid sensationalism.