by Natasha Theobald
I am not a horror movie person, but, luckily, this doesn't seem like a typical horror movie. (Of course, how would I know?) I did watch small bits through a large space in my fingers, but it wasn't soooo much scarier than, for example, one of the creepier "X-Files" or the odd night of the evening news. This movie defies genre, in fact, to tell a disturbing, compelling, and, ultimately, poignant story of a young woman who has spent too much of her life feeling alone. May might terrify you, but it is only because it is so easy to recognize her humanity and sympathize with her wounds, suffered at the hands of a coarse and uncaring world. Her actions are indefensible, but the scary part is that the events which lead to them are not terribly uncommon.May (Angela Bettis) has always looked in from the outside, standing not so steadily on the fringes, wishing only to be seen for the beautiful, if fragile, person that she is. From her days as a young girl forced to wear an eye patch to correct an impairment, May has stood apart, compliantly, from the crowd. Her mother, in a brief moment of recognition, offers her daughter a friend, a handmade doll housed behind glass. Once again, May is kept apart. Her love and care is accepted at a suitable, if reluctant, distance.
"Grotesque, yet oddly poetic."
From her external vantage point, May naively sees only the beauty and perfection of things and, more dangerously, people. She has never gotten close enough to anyone to note the imperfections. She rehearses perfect responses to the seemingly flawless characters who people her version of the world, in the hope of one day approaching them, of being close not only in proximity, but in actuality. She spies the object of this desire made flesh in a man named Adam (Jeremy Sisto) and dares to approach him. She is alternately awkward and seductive, slowly drawing him into her odd yet approachable realm. She's weird, but he likes weird. He enjoys, to some degree, her gory stories about botched surgeries at the animal hospital where she works. She enjoys his cannibalistic sex film, perhaps a little too much. They seem to connect, if only briefly, before things turn out differently than she might have hoped.
May finds solace in the arms of a co-worker, Polly (Anna Faris), but, once again, her expectations exceed the reality of the situation. She offers herself only to feel rejected again, and she begins to doubt the worldview to which she has desperately clung with such hope and despair. She briefly finds a place in the world volunteering with blind children, but even the connection she makes with a young girl named Petey (Rachel David) isn't enough to fill whatever gaping hole is at her center. As her life begins to unravel, May becomes increasingly distressed. It is only when she decides to make the world what she wishes it to be that she finds the strength and purpose to go on.
Writer-director Lucky McKee has created a boldly unique character and a gripping, sometimes heart-wrenching, story. It is alterately beautiful and gruesome, overwhelmingly sad and darkly wry. With the help of great acting by all involved and some spectacular visual moments, this movie is all it is striving to be, if not more. Even the bloodiest stuff is artfully drawn. May strikes an emotional chord for the outsider in all of us and forces us to see something, and someone, when it is more comfortable to just look away. She seems to embody a delicate, childlike innocence that most of us lose growing up in the world. As the world did not choose to embrace her, May is ultimately without the benefit of the minor tragedies that tend to toughen the skin. She is open and freely giving of even her most secret self. So, when the world deals with it roughly, she can take it for only so long.
Angela Bettis creates in May a complicated and deeply moving presence. The character is not easily categorized, so it is difficult, similarly, to confine the performance to a simple descriptive word or a recounted standout moment. Perhaps it is enough to leave said all I have about the character and let the assumption, correctly, remain that every small thing I observed about May was in the performance.
Equally deserving of praise, the supporting performances lend a realism and edge to the world May doesn't necessarily recognize. The distinction is grounded in the lives and activities of the characters played by Jeremy Sisto and Anna Faris. We are partly drawn to May, because they are drawn to her. It is through their eyes that we see what makes her special and what makes her different. In addition, the chemistry that each has with Bettis is interesting, from the sexual tension of the retractable knife to the open office flirtation. This movie forces you to feel something, whether for or against it. I doubt anyone exits unscathed, at least in some respect. And, that, in my mind, might be a good thing.The movie requires some patience and thoughtfulness. Yes, it is disturbing, but I challenge you to see it anyway. It isn't often that the same movie can surprise you and disgust you, make you laugh or want to weep. And, if it makes you see someone you might otherwise pass without a second glance, perhaps that wouldn't be such a bad result.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5750&reviewer=317
originally posted: 06/23/03 15:50:33