Age gap discourse is having a moment. First, Chris Evans stans infantilized Alba Baptista when they got married—he is 42, she is 26—and then everyone let out a collective yikes when Dane Cook married “longtime” girlfriend Kelsi Taylor this past weekend—he is 51, she is 24, and they met when she was 17. In the battle of which is worse, it’s definitely Dane’s situation, he met Kelsi when she was a minor, and they’ve been, ahem, “officially” dating since she was 18. I judge Chris Evans for being a cheesy cliché, the forty-something man who marries a twenty-something woman when he’s finally ready to settle down, but I also credit Alba Baptista with being a grown woman with some life experience under her belt, who is fully capable of making decisions with her eyes open. Kelsi Taylor? She’s had one formative relationship. One man has been dominating her time since she was a teenager. There’s a word for that.
I bring this up because the trailer for May December, Todd Haynes’ new film starring Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman, dropped yesterday. It is loosely inspired by the story of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau, who were teacher-student when they met, and Letourneau began abusing Fualaau. These are not the exact circumstances presented in the film, but Julianne Moore stars as a woman who had an inappropriate relationship with a “seventh grader” whom she later married. Natalie Portman stars as an actress set to play Moore’s character in a film.
The trailer is thorny and presents a dual arc, one in which it appears Portman’s actress character starts to become too ingratiated in her subject’s life, and the other in which Moore’s character’s relationship with her much-younger husband starts to fracture as a result. I am sure everyone will be totally normal about this film and there will be no absurd takes whatsoever. Honestly? I legit hope that’s the case because May December looks really good, and Todd Haynes—who also made Carol and Far From Heaven—is a master of the emotionally devastating drama. It would be nice to take the film as it is without wading through extremely online takes.
This isn’t even the first time Haynes has had an age gap in his films. Carol and Velvet Goldmine both feature relationships between older and younger characters, and his films frequently deal with taboo relationships and the impact of fame and notoriety on people. May December looks right in his wheelhouse, with a psychological horror edge that, maybe, is the one way to approach the subject and not immediately piss everyone off.
It should be noted that May December premiered to raves at Cannes earlier this year, though that is a sympathetic audience for both Haynes and difficult dramas. Also, several people described this film as “camp”, which is intriguing, because that’s not really coming through in the trailer—except maybe a little bit around Natalie Portman’s tightly wound presence in the trailer—but I am here for it if May December goes full Single White Female. Everyone’s already going to have an opinion on this movie, might as well have maximum fun with it.
I also want to mention Charles Melton, lately of Riverdale, who plays the younger man in the film. Riverdale started strong—a little bonkers but fun and stylish—and then went completely off the rails before wrapping up its seventh and final season this past August. Charles Melton is already tipped to contend in the Best Supporting Actor race this year. He might legit go from supporting actor in a goofy teen drama to Oscar nominee in the same year, which is a FAST career turnaround. I wish him well, the actors were never the problem with Riverdale. That was a very talented cast that consistently elevated increasingly crap material, and I hope they all get a chance to show what they can do now that they’re free.
Attached - Julianne Moore at a Milan Fashion Week event a few days ago and Natalie Portman speaking at the UN Sustainable Development SDG Summit 2 in New York.