Filmmaker Todd Haynes is back in his loosely-inspired-by bag for his new movie May December. Where 1998’s Velvet Goldmine excavated and toyed with the life and legacy of David Bowie, Haynes’ next film appears to draw inspiration from the seedy tabloid story of Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher who had an affair with — and then married — her adolescent student, Vili Fualaau.
To be clear, May December — like Velvet Goldmine — is not an outright biopic, though biopics are used as a clever device in the new movie. Julianne Moore and Charles Melton play the couple, Gracie Atherton-Yoo and Joe Yoo, while Natalie Portman plays an actress named Elizabeth Berry, who starts shadowing the couple in preparation for a movie about them.
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As one would expect, welcoming an actress intent on plumbing the dynamics of a relationship founded on ethically and legally dubious ground turns out to be a recipe for disaster. And the new May December trailer is stuffed with discomfort and wickedly intriguing melodrama.
May December premiered at Cannes and earned a place on Rolling Stone’s list of the top 10 films at the festival this year. “Did someone bet Todd Haynes that he couldn’t make a superior Lifetime Channel movie? If so, the Carol filmmaker has now handsomely won that wager,” critic David Fear wrote, adding later: “This is high melodrama, delivered with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Yet he and the cast never tip everything into parody, and somehow don’t let the irony weigh everything down.”
May December will open in select theaters on Nov. 17 before arriving on Netflix on Dec. 1.
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