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“May December” and the sex crime that shocked the world

May December

Starring Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton, Cory Michael Smith, Elizabeth Yu, Gabriel Chung, Piper Curda, D.W Moffett and Lawrence Arancio. Story by Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik. Screenplay by Samy Burch. Directed by Todd Haynes. Opens Friday at TIFF Bell Lightbox; streaming on Netflix beginning Dec. 1. 117 minutes. STC

⭐️⭐️⭐️ (out 4)

Peter Howell

Movie Critic

The American director Todd Haynes bursts through social boundaries, inviting us to follow him. The agitated protagonists of his movies often conflict with cultural norms, be they sexual (“Carol”), environmental (“Dark Waters”) or musical (“The Velvet Underground”).

Haynes really goes for it with “May December,” his latest provocation, which initially presents itself as the happily-ever-after story of a convicted sex offender and the husband who was once her child assault victim.

It’s based on a true story, tabloid fodder from the 1990s: Seattle school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau, 34, began a sexual relationship with a 12-year-old student, Vili Fualaau, whom she later married and had two daughters with after serving years in jail on child rape convictions.

Samy Burch’s screenplay for “May December” relocates the story to sunny Savannah, Georgia. Burch also changes names — Gracie (Julianne Moore) and Joe (Charles Melton of TV’s “Riverdale”) are the dubious duo — and adds the agitating presence of a TV star played by Natalie Portman.

The creepiness of the situation remains fully intact in a film that blends melodrama, psychodrama and dark comedy to keep viewers guessing the intentions of the characters and the director.


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