Tuesday, January 1, 2013

May (2002)

Seen: On dvd on our projector set-up, rented from netflix.

This came to my attention quite a while ago, it feels, but only my recent deepening interest in horror has forced me to finally sit down and watch it. Written and directed by Lucky McKee, May follows the titular character (Angela Bettis) as she explores new relationship options after finally getting contact lenses that correct her lazy eye. A shy, lonely young woman who works as a surgical assistant at a veterinary clinic, May's only friend since childhood has been a fragile doll kept in a glass case, and she longs for someone she can actually touch. Her attempts to connect to a horror movie buff with nice hands (Jeremy Sisto) and a gay secretary with a nice neck (Anna Faris) prove challenging, and as her grasp on sanity gradually slips away May seeks an atypical solution to her social problems.

Establishing itself early on as a slightly unsettling drama, May's darkness bubbles underneath the surface for most of its first two thirds. As a character May is off-putting but sympathetic, and her genuine desire to connect meaningfully with people who just don't understand how she sees the world is touching. Bettis is so strong in the central role, moving between naive girlishness and unhinged hostility in the blink of an eye. I loved Anna Faris as the ditzy Polly, leading May on with a manipulative sweetness and a real interest. Jeremy Sisto and the perpetually doofy James Duval are great in their roles as well, both playing men in whom May quite mistakenly perceives a kindred spirit, much to their misfortune.

With an eye for symbolism and good use of dark interior spaces, McKee creates an eye-catching, enticing film that manages to be funny and weird and sexy and weirdly sexy all at once. The interplay of sex and violence is connected cleverly through sewing and surgery imagery, drawing parallels between them until they're both equally horrific. The extent of May's paranoia and self-delusion is not explicitly clear at first, and the tension builds as the viewer waits for all the pieces to come together in a chilling way. The climax of this movie is fucking amazing, and well worth the slow-burn build-up. I won't say I didn't see it coming (it's not really meant to be a surprise), but damn was I satisfied when it did! Excellent film all around.

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: The movie as a whole made me think of Cindy Sherman's Office Killer, but if you want to lighten things up there are also parallels to the very silly Frankenhooker.

For a more erudite take, check out Andreas's awesome film studies project: "Gender, Sympathy, and the 'Monstrous Hero'"

3 comments:

  1. I recall renting this when it came out (and not knowing anything more than what was written on the cover) and was quite surprised at how good and creepy it was. Few horror movies are as interesting - psychologically speaking. I'll have to re-visit having been reminded of it.

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