At the Cannes press conference for Todd Haynes’ “May December,” no one mentioned the real-life relationship between teacher Mary Kay Letourneau and her former student, Vili Fualaau, that began when he was 12. But the film, which stars Julianne Moore as a fictional teacher years after a similar tabloid scandal and Natalie Portman as an actress attempting to play her, has clear ties to a real-life situation even if the project doesn’t serve from official biopic.
Just as Letourneau and Fualaau ultimately raised the two children conceived when she was a minor, Moore’s character Gracie remains married to 30-year-old Joe (Charles Melton) when Portman’s arrival at their home to research the part complicates the dynamic. . “The reason this movie feels so dangerous is because people don’t know where anyone’s boundaries are,” said Moore. “An age difference is one thing, but a relationship between an adult and a child is a completely different thing.”
Portman brought Haynes the script by Samy Burch (who missed the press conference due to the WGA strike) in the early days of COVID. He stopped acknowledging his non-fiction underpinnings, but he did hint at some of the material that helped her prepare for the role. “We had the tabloid-inspired materials that existed,” he said. “There was a book with a crazy title: ‘Punished for Love’, or something like that.” (Among the books published about Letourneau’s story was “If Loving You Is Wrong: The Shocking True Story of Mary Kay Letourneau” by Gregg Alson, in 1999. The couple divorced in 2019, and Letournau died in 2020.)
Moore is no stranger to movies about abusive relationships, as she also starred in Tom Kalin’s incest drama “Savage Grace,” which premiered at Cannes in 2007. In this case, Moore said, the character the she’s attracted to the way she tries to convince herself that her young partner has seduced her, rather than the other way around. “Her transgression of her is so enormous that she kind of buries her in her performative femininity where she plays this child as a male figure and therefore her dominant her,” Moore said. “That was incredibly challenging and challenging for me.”
“May December” marks Haynes’ fifth time with a film at Cannes and his fifth collaboration with Moore, but it’s the first in a long time to arrive with serious interest from buyers. (Her latest narrative feature in competition, “Carol,” arrived at Cannes with The Weinstein Company in tow.) Buyers waited in the rain for Saturday’s 10:30 p.m. an hour late due to a delayed start time for Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which took place immediately before. IndieWire spotted buyers for Neon, Searchlight, Magnolia and Netflix at screening and after party, which didn’t start until 2am CAA is selling ‘May December’ and juggles offers from various interested parties with one eye to potential rewards. In addition to Haynes’ longtime producing partner Christine Vachon and Portman, “May December” also boasts Will Ferrell as a producer through his production company Gloria Sanchez, and was also seen at the premiere.
Less than 24 hours after walking the red carpet, Portman took a moment to spot the unfair expectations Cannes places on women in the spotlight. “The different ways women are expected to behave at this festival even compared to men and how we should look, how we should behave – expectations are always different on you and it affects how you carry yourself,” she said . “You are definitely defined by the social structures about you.” Her comments come days after a petition, published on Change.org and signed by nearly 2,400 people after its initial exposure in French newspaper Libération, criticized the festival for “rolling out the red carpet to men and women who assault “.
Portman added that these concerns extend to the themes of his new film. “The whole movie is so much about performance and the different roles we play in different environments for different people, even for ourselves,” she said. “Of course, portraying femininity is a recurring theme in Todd’s films as well.”