Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore discuss ‘queerness’ of May December characters
Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore have opened up about the “inherent queerness” displayed between their characters in May December.
The two actresses star alongside Charles Melton in the new drama directed by Todd Haynes, nominated for four Golden Globe Awards.
It tells the story of TV actress Elizabeth (Portman) who is researching for her upcoming role in a film, in which she will play sex offender Gracie (Moore) – a woman who made tabloid headlines for her 23-year-long relationship with her husband Joe (Melton), which began when he was 13 and she was 36.
While she shadows Gracie and delves deeper into her psyche, there is a notable chemistry between Elizabeth and her subject.
Speaking on this in a new interview with Attitude, Portman agreed that there was an “inherent queerness” between Gracie and Elizabeth as they struggled with their power dynamic.
“I think a lot of queerness, as far as I understand it, also has to do with stepping out of prescribed societal boundaries that are imposed upon you,” said Portman.
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“I think both of these characters, both of these women, are so intent on writing their own narratives. Declaring their own identity. Creating their own story.
“That’s really this dynamic between them – there is that inherent queerness to it.
“As Julie has been saying a lot as well, there’s a dynamic where seduction is one of the strategies they’re using to try and gain control over the narrative.”
Julianne Moore then chimed in: “It’s really a struggle for dominance. They’ll use whatever they can. I think they’re both seductive individuals too.
“Both very much know how to perform femininity. I think one of the characteristics of performative femininity is seduction. They’re out there throwing it at each other.”
The Netflix drama, inspired by the true story of teacher Mary Kay Letourneau and her sixth-grade student Vili Fualaau, has stirred up intense emotions for viewers – particularly thanks to a completely devastating performance from Melton.
That’s why many fans are questioning why May December has been nominated in the comedy category at this year’s Golden Globes.
Although there are some – very – dark comedy moments sprinkled through the film, viewers have argued that it doesn’t exactly fit in with competing comedy nominees like Barbie, Air, or The Holdovers.
When asked about the comedy nomination, Melton, who is also up for Best Supporting Actor, told The Hollywood Reporter: “I think filming it, it didn’t feel – with Samy’s script, and the direction of Todd, it didn’t feel funny, it’s a pretty complex kind of script.
“And I think the only thing we can do, as artists, when making a project, for me as an actor, is to tell the character’s story. We have really no control of how the audience is going to receive what they see.”
Director Todd Haynes has preemptively joined in this discourse, telling Netflix’s Tudum earlier this month that May December is both a comedy and a drama.
“[Humour] was evident in Samy Burch’s script but I don’t think you can fully imagine how it plays out until actors of this caliber are navigating it.”
Producer Pamela Koffler added: “stylistically, in Todd’s approach, there’s a looseness, there’s a humor, and there’s a control, and there’s a tension that I feel are held in such exquisite balance that takes such an understanding and a skill in filmmaking to achieve.”
May December is available to stream now on Netflix in the US and Canada, and on Sky Cinema in the UK.
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