May December is an upcoming film about a couple struggling under the weight of their age gap, which takes inspiration from the story of Mary Kay Letourneau‘s infamous affair with her student Vili Fualaau, who was 22 years her junior.
According to the synopsis, the film picks up years after a notorious romance between Gracie (Moore) and Joe (Charles Melton) gripped the nation. The couple, who have a 23-year age gap, are getting ready to send their kids off to college when Elizabeth (Portman) comes to town in preparation for a new film based on the couple. The actress starts to do research on Gracie and Joe, which causes their dynamic to unravel as Joe comes to terms with what happened in his youth.
May December initially found success at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2023 with a six-minute standing ovation. Netflix bought the film and it is set to have a wider release in theaters and streaming.
Before the film became available to a larger audience, director Todd Haynes discussed bringing the project to life in less than a month.
“It was very important for Natalie and Julie to spend time together because Julie’s character had to establish a sort of physical type that Natalie’s character has to start to imitate throughout the course of the film. That put a tremendous extra burden on Julianne to come up with who Gracie was very quickly,” he told The Hollywood Reporter that same month. “We really did do our very best to [have] just time spent socially with Julianne and Charles and the two main kids who were in the film. All of that time just hanging out and talking helped. We didn’t really have a lot of time literally in the room working through scenes or going through the script as much as we would have liked.”
Scroll down for everything to know about May December:
What Is the Plot of ‘May December’?
The film explores a married couple (Moore and Melton) — with a large age gap — who begin to struggle with their reality when an actress (Portman) arrives to do research for a film about their past.
Who Makes Up the Cast of ‘May December’?
The film stars Portman, Moore and Melton. D.W. Moffett, Piper Curda, Elizabeth Yu, Gabriel Chung, Cory Michael Smith and Lawrence Arancio round out the cast.
What Has the Official Trailer Revealed?
According to the first teaser for the film, which was released by Netflix in September 2023, Moore and Portman are seen facing each other in the mirror. Portman’s character seemingly tries to copy Moore’s mannerisms while saying, “I think about you all the time.”
“Both women are circling each other and trying to get a handle on each other,” Haynes told Netflix’s Tudum in September 2023 after a longer cut of the trailer was released. “I think a lot of it is about a process of trust, which is Natalie’s character Elizabeth’s goal to make Gracie feel toward her. It’s Elizabeth’s project to try to navigate around these resistances piece by piece.”
When Will ‘May December’ Be Released?
The movie is set to premiere in select theaters on November 17, 2023 and will be available to stream on Netflix starting December 1, 2023.
What Is the Message Behind the Story?
In May 2023, Portman discussed what drew her to the film, telling Vogue, “It was really fun to get to explore being an actress, and what it means to depict a real-life story. It gets you thinking about how you might influence something — it’s a question a documentarian or journalist might also ask — and how you affect a story by your portrayal of it. And it’s also about whether or not art can be amoral.”
Portman applauded Haynes for his non-judgmental approach to the film’s story, telling Variety four months later, “[He] has an in-depth understanding of human behavior. His female characters are complex and multidimensional.”
What Real Life Events Helped Shape ‘May December’?
Haynes previously praised screenwriter Samy Burch‘s vision for the story.
“I really found myself honoring the distinction in Samy’s script from some of the famous examples of these tabloid stories like Mary Kay Letourneau. I was really looking more for sort of cinematic correlatives because the nature of the script is that you’re left in a state of uncertainty about what to think about these people,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in May 2023. “The reliability you attribute initially to Elizabeth, the character Natalie Portman plays, begins to become destabilized as the film unfolds. You’re in a constant state of reevaluation.”
He continued: “So, I was more curious about how do we tell this story and let all of those ways of reading the film be made pleasurable and allow the audience to feel like it was going to be a fun film to be navigating.”
How Do Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau Relate to the Film?
Letourneau made headlines in 1996 when news broke about her affair with Fualaau, who was a sixth-grade student at the time. After Letourneau served jail time, the pair exchanged vows in 2005 and raised their daughters, Audrey and Georgia. Letourneau and Fualaau subsequently called it quits in 2019 and she passed away from colorectal cancer one year later.
Film fans have pointed out the major similarities between May December and Letourneau’s personal life.