Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore is making a big screen comeback in the drama film May December, playing yet another controversial and possibly most uncomfortable role to date—a sex offender.
Julianne stars as Gracie Atherton, who, at 36, was caught having an affair with a 13-year-old boy, Joe Yoo, played by Riverdale’s Charles Melton. Due to their forbidden romance, which caused a tabloid frenzy, Gracie was sent behind bars, where she gave birth to Joe’s child. After serving time in prison, Gracie and Joe wed.
Two decades later, actress Elizabeth Berry, played by Natalie Portman, is set to portray Gracie in a film. She stays with the couple to get to know them and even speaks with their friends and family to uncover the truth about their controversial relationship. However, as Elizabeth becomes increasingly involved in Gracie and Joe’s personal life, bringing up the couple’s painful past, Gracie and Joe start to fall apart.
Julianne Moore plays sex offender Gracie Atherton, who was caught having an affair with 13-year-old Joe when she was 36, in the drama film May December (Credit: Netflix)
May December premiered at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in May. It was released in select theaters in the US on November 17 before streaming on Netflix on December 1.
The cast and director of the movie gathered together at the Academy Museum of Motion Picture on Friday to celebrate the film’s Los Angeles screening.
Moore was photographed posing with Todd Haynes, the director of the film, as well as her co-stars Natalie Portman and Charles Melton.
Charles Melton, Julianne Moore, Natalie Portman, and director Todd Haynes at the Los Angeles premiere of Netflix’s May December held at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on November 17, 2023 (Credit: Xavier Collin / Image Press Agency / Abaca Press / INSTARimages)
It was a straightforward design featuring a simple yet trendy column silhouette with visible creases and seams down the front.
The bespoke dress also had a back vent for an easy stride and a revealing cutout back with contrasting black feather adornment, adding a whimsical touch to the otherwise basic design.
Julianne Moore stuns in a custom fiery red column dress by Prada (Credit: Xavier Collin / Image Press Agency / Abaca Press / INSTARimages)
The look, curated by Kate Young, was kept classy with minimal accessories, including stud earrings, some rings, and a Cartier Juste Un Clou diamond bangle. Young’s celebrity clients include Michelle Williams, Nina Dobrev, Scarlett Johansson, Greta Gerwig, Rachel Weisz, and Dakota Johnson.
Marcus Francis styled Moore’s hair sleek and tucked behind her ears. He used Az Haircare’s Smooth Serum on her “damp hair from roots to tip,” sprayed the Intense Volume Mist around her hairline and top half of her head, and smoothed out her red tresses with a flat iron before applying the Elixir Nourishing Oil for a high shine finish.
Elaine Woulard used red lipstick, rosy cheeks, mascara, eyeliner, and a hint of smoky eyeshadow to achieve Moore’s radiant makeup look.
Julianne Moore keeps a classy look with a Cartier bracelet and a soft glam (Credit: Xavier Collin / Image Press Agency / Abaca Press / INSTARimages)
Is May December Based on a True Story?
Categorized as fiction, May December is loosely inspired by the controversial case of Mary Kay Letourneau, who was a teacher and convicted sex offender, and her relationship with her student, Vili Fualaau.
Director Todd Haynes confessed that he found the subject matter challenging.
“It didn’t cast judgments, which made one extremely uncomfortable – especially today where we think we know what we think all the time, going into material and the subject matter, especially, of this nature,” Haynes told Metro.
May December is loosely based on the story of Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher and convicted sex offender (Credit: Netflix)
Haynes also revealed that, despite the striking parallels between Gracie and Joe’s situation and the real-life Letourneau-Fualaau affair, his initial thought was to “stay away” from the real-life story and “to respect the distinctions between the Mary Kay Letourneau story and what Samy had written.”
He also admitted his “distaste” for the real-life case but was later convinced by Julianne Moore to watch the documentaries “because they were useful in understanding Gracie. And they gave specific examples to a kind of backstory that we had to figure out for ourselves as actors and director.”
Julianne Moore on Taking on Sex Offender Role
Moore is no stranger to playing controversial roles, having portrayed a cocaine-addicted porn star in Boogie Nights (1997), an incestuous mother in Savage Grace (2007), and a cheating lesbian mom in The Kids Are All Right (2010).
In a previous interview with Netflix Queue, Julianne Moore recalled being captivated by the May December narrative written by Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik.
“I loved this script when I first read it. It’s interesting. It felt slight at first. But the minute you get into it, it’s unbelievably sturdy. It holds a tremendous amount of feeling and humanity and complexity.”
Charles Melton, 32, stars opposite Julianne Moore, 62, in May December (Credit: Faye’s Vision / Cover Images)
Discussing what drew her to the role, Moore said, “For Gracie, there’s been a tremendous amount of judgment about her.”
“She wants to say, ‘See me. Know who I am. Know why I’ve made these choices.’ She wants to be known. I think that there’s something really interesting about that, about letting somebody into your very, very private life to explore, to see who you are. But, of course, Gracie’s also presenting a version of herself that she wants to be known. I think Elizabeth becomes more dangerous as Gracie realizes that she can’t control her own narrative,” she explained.