- May December is a black comedy-drama film.
- The film stars Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, and Charles Melton.
- May December is loosely inspired by the real-life case Mary Kay Letourneau.
Content warning: This article mentions child sexual abuse and rape.
As we hurtle toward the grand finale of 2023, buckle up because the film industry is revving its engines for an epic afterparty. This year has already unleashed a barrage of cinematic masterpieces, but the fun is just starting.
Brace yourself for May December, a black-comedy drama that sees renowned TV actress Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) preparing for the role of Gracie (Julianne Moore), one half of a notorious tabloid romance that has now faded into the annals of history. OK, we're already hooked, but the burning question remains: Is the film based on a true story?
So, is 'May December' based on a true story?
Although the film's story is fictional, first-time screenwriter Samy Burch reportedly said at a New York Film Festival screening that she drew inspiration from the real-life case of Mary Kay Letourneau.
"I really wanted a fictional story that dealt with this tabloid culture of the '90s that has kind of seemingly led into this true-crime biopic world we're in now, and kind of question that transition and why we want to keep recreating these stories," Samy said per People. "That was the real jumping-off point for me. ... All of these stories like this that are in the ether are just completely embedded in everyone's cultural history."
During the press conference, director Todd Haynes added that Julianne Moore took inspiration from Letourneau when developing her character, incorporating a distinctive lisp for Gracie.
"To be honest, there were things in kind of a loose upper palate that we did find interesting in Mary Kay Letourneau's speech that was a kick-off for her. And she took it further," he said on Julianne's speaking voice in the film.
In the Netflix original, Julianne Moore stars as Gracie Atherton-Yoo, a woman who, when she was 36, began an affair with a 13-year-old boy she worked with. The two got married and had kids after she was released from prison.
Who was Mary Kay Letourneau?
Let's get straight to the point: Mary Kay Letourneau was a Seattle-based school teacher and convicted sex offender. In 1997, the 34-year-old married mother of four pleaded guilty to two counts of felony second-degree rape of her sixth-grade student Vili Fualaau. Letourneau gave birth to their two children before Fualaau was even 15.
Fualaau had reached adulthood by the time Letourneau was released from prison, and he sought court approval to resume contact with her. The restraining order against Letourneau was lifted, but she remained a registered sex offender in Washington state until her death in July 2020.
Despite the controversial history of their relationship, the couple tied the knot in 2005. Their marriage came to an end in 2017 when Fualaau filed for legal separation. However, during the separation proceedings, they still lived together. Fualaau was by Letourneau's side when she died, and she left much of her estate to him in her will.
May December is now playing in select theaters and begins streaming on Netflix on Friday, December 1.