Culture / Film

Why is everyone talking about ‘May December’?

may december

From its salacious title alone, May December garners intrigue. Add director Todd Haynes into the mix, who's portfolio includes Carol and Velvet Goldmine, a formidable cast, and the fact that the film is loosely based off a controversial true story, and Netflix has landed itself a top performer. Since the film premiered to US audiences on December 1 via the streamer, it's all anyone on social media can talk about. Find out why, below.

What happens in May December?

As the title suggests, at the heart of the film is a relationship between a young and middle-aged person. May December follows Natalie Portman's character Elizabeth, a popular television actor who is researching a part in an upcoming film that centres a scandalous tabloid romance from the past. She travels to Savannah, Georgia to meet the woman her character is based off. Played by Julianne Moore, Gracie was involved in an underage relationship with Joe (Charles Melton) who was a student-aged employee at the pet shop where they met. When she was caught, Gracie served time in prison. Now they're married with children when Elizabeth comes knocking on their door, however the veneer of normalcy around their relationship begins to deteriorate as Elizabeth overstays her welcome.

From the reviews so far, Todd Haynes toes a line between drama and comedy with the goal to make the audience uncomfortable, especially with regard to their keen interest in a story as disturbing as this. Elizabeth's own intrigue feels predatory, and her ultimate performance of Gracie becomes a caricature (there's a lisp scene that's flooded socials). Gracie is also evasive when Joe begins agonising, asking the obvious, fraught questions about the power dynamics of their relationship and Gracie's own predatory behaviour. People are calling it Hayne's best work yet, while Charles Melton's performance is said to rival Portman and Moore's.


Who's involved?

As established, Natalie Portman plays Elizabeth, Julianne Moore stars as Gracie, and Charles Melton is Joe. Cory Michael Smith, Piper Curda, and Jocelyn Shelfo have also been cast.


Is May December based on a true story?

As you may have gathered, May December is based off of a real underage relationship which first dominated headlines in the late 90s. Mary Kay Letourneau was a 34-year-old high school teacher from Seattle who struck up a sexual relationship with her 12-year-old student Vili Fualaau. After a nine-month affair, Letourneau was found out, arrested, and ultimately pleaded guilty to two counts of secondary rape in 1997. By 1998, Letourneau had given birth to two children by Fualaau, the second while she served a seven-and-a-half year jail sentence. In 2005, the pair married when Fualaau was 21 years old. They remained married until 2019 when Fualaau filed for divorce. Letourneau died the following year from cancer, she was 58.

Audiences have resurfaced old footage from an interview with Australia's Channel Seven which directly mirrors dialogue from the film. See it below.


When can we watch May December in Australia?

While the film is streaming now on Netflix in the US, we'll have to wait until February 1, 2024 for May December to land on the platform in Australia.


Is there a trailer?

Yes, there sure is. Find the trailer to May December, below.


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