Directed by Lucky McKee
Produced by Marius Balchunas & Scott Sturgeon
Written by Lucky McKee
Director of Photograpy Steve Yedlin
Music by Jaye Barne-Luckett
Cast: Angela Betts, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris & James Duval
2002/93 mins/Color/5.1 DD
1.85:1/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD
Lions Gate has become the little distributor that could. Once known only for obscure direct-to-video fare, this company is now releasing some of the most important and well-reviewed films around today. Their newest strategy is to release a film for a limited theatrical engagement to generate buzz for the DVD release. This is the case with MAY, a freaky little thriller which has just landed on home video.
As a young girl May Canady (Angela Bettis) was an outcast due to the eye-patch that she was forced to wear to correct her lazy eye. Friendless, her mother gave her a doll named Suzy. Now an adult, May works as a veteranary assistant, and confides only in Suzy. She wears to glasses to help with her eye, but as she gets contact lenses, her self-confidence begins to grow. She approaches mechanic Adam Stubbs (Jeremy Sisto), a horror-film fan who seems to appreciate the odder things in life, and they begin a friendship. Meanwhile, May is also becoming friends with Polly (Anna Faris), the new receptionist at the vet clinic. But, as May awkwardly approaches happiness, she learns that people aren't perfect, and she finds herself becoming obsessed with certain body parts of other people. As this obsession grows, and May spirals toward madness, May remembers her mothers credo, "If you can't find a friend, make one."
MAY is a very promising film that is ultimately disappointing. Writer/director Lucky McKee has certainly constructed an interesting and artsy film, but there are some problems with the narrative. The overview of May's childhood is very brief and vague. We know that she has a lazy eye and a strong-willed mother, but is that enough to explain her emotional problems? (On the audio commentary, it is revealed that more childhood footage was shot, but eventually cut. It's a shame that this footage isn't on the DVD.) Also, the film's tone is quite uneven, as it segues from the most disturbing moment that I've ever seen in a film to sudden dark humor. This is very jarring to the viewer and can take the audience out of the movie.
Even if you've never seen the trailer or don't know anything about MAY, it quickly becomes evident that this is going to be one of those movies where a put-upon characters slowly loses grip on their sanity and goes over the edge. But, McKee takes too long for May's psychotic break to occur. We, the audience, know what's going to happen (although we don't know to what extent), and the suspence and anticipation eventually gives way to ennui as we wait for May's breakdown. But, to McKee's credit, the symbolism which he uses to underline May disintegration is very cool and creative. Having just watched SOLARIS, I won't complain that the ending is too ambiguous.
Story and pacing problems aside, MAY isn't a complete loss. While McKee wanders into fanboy land with his references to Argento, he plays the film straight for the most part, and creates some genuinely disturbing and intriguing images. Also, the movie contains some nice gore as well. Angela Bettis is very good in the lead as May (as a warm-up for her role in the TV remake of CARRIE), and pulls off the shy/awkward thing very convincingly. Jeremy Sisto is good as well, as the weird guy who isn't quite weird enough for MAY. The film features some great musical cues from Kelly Deal and The Breeders which add emotion to the scenes.
MAY comes to DVD from Lions Gate Home Entertainment, and for a low-budget film, MAY looks very good on this DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only the slightest hint of grain. The image shows some slight distortion and artifacting at times, but there are no overt defects from the source print. The colors look fantastic, as McKee has taken advantage of the Technicolor process. The image is accompanied by a fine audio track. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track provides very clear dialogue and sound effects, and the music sounds great here. The film has a very smart sound design and things only get loud during the intense scenes. This track enhances that effect, as the surround sound speakers and the subwoofer come to life as May has her breakdown.
The DVD is somewhat of a disappointment in the extra features department. As noted above, there are no deleted scenes on the DVD. We are, however, treated to two audio commentaries, the first containing writer/director Lucky McKee, actors Angela Bettis, Nichole Hiltz, & Bret Roberts, editor Chris Silverston, and director of photography Steve Yedlin, while the second once again features McKee along with composer Jaye Barne-Luckett, production designer Leslie Kell, editor Rian Johnson, and Benji the craft services guy. Both commentaries are quite similar as they feature a group of young people who clearly bonded while making this film and are having fun reminiscing about it. Unfortunately, this means that there is a great deal of overlapping material. But, they do provide a great deal of background information on the film and offer their insights into some of the film's more "subtle" moments. And as usual, the trailer can be found behind the Lions Gate logo on the main menu page.
As with the recent 28 DAYS LATER, MAY is a horror film that plays up its artsy side, but like Danny Boyle's zombie epic, this also translates into the film being quite boring at times. MAY takes an old idea and adds some new twists to it, and makes me want to see what Lucky McKee will do next.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©