After exploring the history of the Velvet Underground, Todd Haynes is returning with his first narrative feature since 2019’s severely overlooked Dark Waters this month as May December is set for a Cannes Film Festival launch in competition. Starring Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman, scripted by Samy Burch, and shot by Kelly Reichardt’s longtime cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt, the first image has now finally arrived, which can be seen above via Variety.

Also starring Charles Melton, Piper Curda, Elizabeth Yu, and Gabriel Chun, here’s the synopsis: “Twenty years after their notorious tabloid romance gripped the nation, Gracie Atherton-Yu and her husband Joe (twenty-three years her junior) brace themselves for their twins to graduate from high school. When Hollywood actress Elizabeth Berry comes to spend time with the family to better understand Gracie, who she will be playing in a film, family dynamics unravel under the pressure of the outside gaze. Joe, never having processed what happened in his youth, starts to confront the reality of life as an empty-nester at thirty-six. And as Elizabeth and Gracie study each other, the similarities and differences between the two women begin to ebb and flow. Set in picturesque and comfortable Camden, Maine, May December is an exploration of truth, storytelling, and the difficulties (or impossibility) of fully understanding another person.”

Haynes also spoke to Center Pompidou, where he will be honored with a retrospective next month, about the film. “The story is loosely inspired by the Mary Kay Letourneau scandal that broke out in the United States in the early 1990s,” said the director. “She was a teacher in Washington State, who was arrested for having sex with one of his students, aged 13. She was the mother of three children. She began to serve her sentence and was then released on parole, but she did not respect the ban on seeing the boy again. She became pregnant at that time and she served seven years in prison for rape. They continued their relationship throughout their lives, built a family and raised two daughters. Mary Kay Letourneau was a fascinating subject, which the tabloids seized on at the time with rare violence, and which Julianne Moore drew inspiration for her character: she is very strong-willed, in control of herself. She is a magnificent, amazing woman, who reveals herself even more with age. But she wears blinders, she refuses to see everything that happened and, like Mary Kay Letourneau with Vili Fualaau, she builds a myth from her story.”

He adds, “In May December, the boy is Joe is a mixed-race young man of Korean descent played by Charles Melton. Our two characters, Gracie and Joe, have three children, a daughter who is in university, and two fraternal twins who are about to graduate. An actress then enters the scene, who appears as the central character and allows the story to follow––later, we realize that she is neither the most reliable character nor the narrator. She is played by Natalie Portman. She is an actress who must embody the character of Gracie for a film and tries to do it as best she can. She wants to give him the truth that he has not been given until now. The story tells how the arrival of this actress in their lives––the interviews she conducts with Gracie.”

May December is seeking distribution and will hopefully arrive by the end of the year.

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