The film “May December” is earning positive reviews, but many Australians may not be aware of the shocking true story it depicts. The movie, available on Netflix and in select cinemas, features Julianne Moore as Gracie and Charles Melton as Joe, portraying a married couple who began their relationship when Joe was 13, and Gracie was a 36-year-old married mother of four. Despite the significant age difference, the characters engage in a sexual relationship, leading to Gracie’s imprisonment for rape.
The couple eventually marry and have three children, but their relationship unravels when they are contacted to be the focus of a new film.
Natalie Portman plays Elizabeth, a prominent actor who is preparing to play Gracie in a film adaptation of her life, and arrives to spend time with her family before production.
However, Elizabeth’s presence raises suspicions about Joe’s genuine connection with his wife.
If this narrative seems vaguely similar, that’s because it is.
The plot revolves around Seattle schoolteacher Mary Kay Letourneau, who was sentenced to jail for rape after having a sexual relationship with her 13-year-old pupil Vili Fualaau in 1997.
Letourneau’s husband, Steve, found that his wife was sleeping with a teenager and notified authorities after discovering love letters between the two.
Letourneau was pregnant with Fualaau’s kid when she was arrested.
She received a six-month imprisonment and was barred from contacting Fualaau.
After being freed in January 1998, Letourneau defied court rules and was arrested a month later when she was discovered having sex with Fualaau in a vehicle.
She was sentenced to another seven and a half years in jail, where Letourneau and Fualaau welcomed their second child, daughter Georgia, on October 16, 1998.
The couple got married in 2004.
When the controversy emerged, Fualaau’s identity was concealed in the media since he was a youngster, but Letourneau’s photograph was widely circulated.
She justified the connection in 1998, telling Oprah Winfrey that the two were soulmates.
“I think with all certainty, this young man is the love of my life, or I wouldn’t have done this to my children,” she said.
Fulaau later confirmed Letourneau’s assessment of the connection in adult interviews.
In an interview with The Seattle Times, he defined the relationship as consensual and stated that the couple was in love.
However, in a 2006 People interview, Letourneau claimed that her older four children paid regular visits to her and their new stepfather a year after they married.
The uneasy dynamic persisted between the mismatched duo.
Fualaau confessed that there were some strained sentiments between her four children from her first marriage and him.
He was just slightly older than Letourneau’s youngest kid.
“I feel like I don’t really have a place except that I’m their mother’s husband,” he said.
Later in an interview with Barbara Walters on 20/20 his tone on the relationship markedly changed.
“I don’t support younger kids being married or having a relationship with someone older,” he told Walters. “I don’t support it.”
The couple finally parted up in 2019, and Letourneau died of cancer the following year.
Fualaau told the Hollywood Reporter that he was “offended” because director Todd Haynes never contacted him on the film.
“I’m still alive and well,” he told the outlet. “If they had reached out to me, we could have worked together on a masterpiece. Instead, they chose to do a ripoff of my original story. I’m offended by the entire project and the lack of respect given to me — who lived through a real story and is still living it.”
When contacted about the comments, Portman told Entertainment Weekly that she was “sorry”.
“It’s not based on them, it’s, you know, obviously their story influenced the culture that we all grew up in and influenced the idea,” she said.
“But it’s fictional characters that are really brought to life by Julianne Moore and Charles Melton so beautifully, and yeah, it’s its own story, it’s not meant to be a biopic.”