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Charles Melton’s Performance In May December Is Getting A Lot Of Praise, And I Totally Get Why

In an unexpected turn of events Charles Melton – who, up until this point, was best known as part of the Riverdale cast – is in contention to win an Oscar. Fresh off his run on the hit CW drama, he starred in one of Netflix’s best movies, May December, as the quiet husband of Julianne Moore’s Gracie. The film is complex, and the role Melton plays in it is not easy. However, he did so with grace, and now he’s receiving a lot of praise for it. And I must say, I get why.

In May December, which premiered on the 2023 movie schedule aptly in December, Charles Melton plays Joe, the significantly younger husband of Julianne Moore’s Gracie. Natalie Portman portrays an actress who is prepping to play Gracie in a movie, and she goes to stay with Moore’s character and Joe to learn about them and their relationship. As the actress and the audience learn more about how Gracie and Joe hooked up when he was in middle school and she was a mother of three, the film dives into the complicated relationship and its implications. 

In Joe’s case specifically, he’s working out that he’s been trapped in this relationship throughout the film. Melton gives a very introspective and emotional performance, and while he doesn’t say much, he’s able to clearly communicate his story through physicality and small, yet impactful actions and reactions. That alone is enough for him to deserve all this hype, but let’s get into detail about why we could be seeing this actor accepting an Oscar in the near future. 

Charles Melton as Joe standing behind a BBQ.

(Image credit: Cr. François Duhamel / Courtesy of Netflix)

What People Are Saying About Charles Melton’s Performance In May December

From the jump, I had assumed that the praise for May December would center solely around Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore. However, Charles Melton didn’t just go toe-to-toe with these stars, he performed at the same caliber as them, putting him smack dab in the middle of the critical conversation surrounding Todd Haynes’ film.

In Therese Lacson’s review for Collider, she noted that “Melton holds his own against Moore and Portman,” which seems to be the general consensus. Elaborating on this idea, she wrote about what makes Melton’s performance as Joe so compelling:

Melton, who is primarily known for teen dramas like Riverdale, is able to balance the simplicity of Joe’s character with his burgeoning curiosity into a life he never got to lead. Has he always been in love with Gracie, or was he simply told he was in love with her? (Obviously, the answer is obvious to us but not to him.)

Throughout the film we see Joe struggling to figure out if he was coerced into a relationship, or if he’s actually in love with Gracie. And as the review stated, while we know what the answer is, Melton makes you wholeheartedly believe that Joe genuinely doesn’t. I think Courtney Howard captured the general opinion surrounding him and May December by posting this tweet about the rooftop scene:

Charles Melton’s rooftop breakdown in #MayDecember is a masterclass, where its humor (because he can’t handle pot) is usurped by heartbreak (because it unlocks years of anxieties that’ve weighed him down). He balances on a razor’s edge. That’s talent.

Not only is Melton balancing with his own performance, but he’s also a perfect juxtaposition for Moore and Portman, who give pretty big performances. It’s honestly remarkable. 

Natalie Portman as Elizabeth Berry, & Charles Melton as Joe Yoo.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)

Why Charles Melton’s Performance Deserves The Hype

As the notions above stated, Charles Melton is doing a high-wire act with this performance. He’s playing an adult who almost seems like he’s trapped with the mindset of a kid, because he stopped developing after he and Gracie got together. Over on X, @slashershotzi explained that they were baffled by the actor’s performance, and this balance, posting:

someone needs to ask charles melton how the fuck he manages to hold himself in may december like a 13 year old boy to the point where, every time i see him onscreen despite how he is clearly a grown man, i think “that’s a child”. how is he doing that

They went on to compliment Melton’s performance, and his physicality specifically, saying that “Melton is acting with his entire body.” From his gentle interactions with his butterflies to his awkward conversations with his kids to his emotionally tense scenes with Gracie, the way Melton holds himself as Joe and the few words he decides to say tell you his entire story, clearly.

You know the saying “show, don’t tell?” That’s precisely what Charles Melton does with Joe in this movie. While he never really outwardly states his internal struggles, his actions make them clear as day and incredibly tragic. It’s honestly a masterclass in acting and casting. 

L to R: Charles Melton as Joe, Todd Haynes Director and Julianne Moore as Gracie Atherton-Yoo.

(Image credit: Cr. François Duhamel / Courtesy of Netflix)

Can Charles Melton Win Best Supporting Actor At The Oscars?

Now the question becomes, can Charles Melton win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars? This category is stacked this year. We’ll likely be seeing heavy hitters like Barbie’s Ryan Gosling going against Oppenheimer’s Robert Downey Jr. Robert DeNiro from Killers of the Flower Moon will also likely be on the list. Add in a few more A-List contenders like Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe for Poor Things, and you have an incredible list of beloved actors making up this category that Melton would be going up against. 

Check Out Our Exclusive May December Coverage

Natalie Portman in May December

(Image credit: Netflix)

‘May December’ Video Interviews With Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore And More 

However, I think he can win.

It’s early in the awards season, but Charles Melton has already snagged a Gotham Award (which the 2023 Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan and the 2022 winner Troy Kotsur both won), a New York Film Critics Circle Award and a Critics Choice Award for Breakthrough Performance. If he’s able to keep up this momentum, of course, he’ll be in strong contention for the Oscar, especially as more and more people stream and talk about May December.

People are really loving his nuanced and quiet performance as Joe, as they should, he’s incredible. Hopefully, as the award season continues, we’ll see Charles Melton honored over and over for his masterful work that deserves every ounce of hype he’s receiving.  

To see Charles Melton performing alongside Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore, you can stream May December with a Netflix subscription

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