Charles Melton & Todd Haynes On The Movie’s Vulnerability And Ambiguity


  • May December, starring Julianne Moore, is a sharp and enticing movie that explores the aftermath of a taboo relationship.
  • Charles Melton delivers a fabulous performance as Joe, whose life is upended by the arrival of Natalie Portman’s character.
  • The film’s ambiguous ending leaves unanswered questions and allows the audience to interpret the truth about the characters.

Director Todd Haynes has once again teamed up with Julianne Moore for May December, a sharp and enticing movie that arrives December 1 on Netflix. Loosely based on the life of Mary Kay Letourneau, the drama takes place 20 years after Gracie Atherton-Yoo (Moore) has gone to jail for her relationship with a minor. In the present, she is married to Joe (Charles Melton) with three children and an apparently idyllic suburban lifestyle — but all of that is upended when actress Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman) comes to town in hopes of researching her movie about Gracie.

May December has already garnered plenty of critical acclaim, with Melton’s nuanced performance winning him a Gotham Independent Film Award. As Joe, he is tasked with holding his family together in the face of both external criticism and his own internal regrets over how his life unfolded. In fact, the script demands plenty of introspection and obfuscation from all three leads, as they each attend to force their perception of the truth ahead of any unbiased reflection of past events.

Related: May December Review: Charles Melton Stands Out In Haynes’ Intense Dramedy [Cannes]

Screen Rant interviewed Charles Melton and director Todd Haynes about their approach to May December, how Gracie and Elizabeth affect Joe’s sense of self, and what the casting process was like from each of their perspectives.

Charles Melton & Todd Haynes Talk May December

Screen Rant: Charles, you gave such a fabulous performance, and it really feels like it’s a turning point for Joe when Elizabeth comes into their lives. Can you talk about what Julianne Moore’s Gracie brings out in you versus what Natalie Portman’s Elizabeth-turned-Gracie does?

Charles Melton: When I think about Joe, I just think about this man who was a father of three kids who had such an immense amount of responsibility at such a young age, and he’s kind of at this point in his life where he’s preparing to be an empty nester and he’s a loving father, a loving husband.

The arrival of Elizabeth, Natalie’s character serves as this catalyst for Joe’s own repressed awakening and we’re seeing Joe process and we as the audience process in real-time, all these complex characters in Joe’s story.

Todd, I love how the film ends on something of an ambiguous note. There are a lot of questions that are still left unanswered and it’s really up to us to figure out where it goes. How did you decide what to land on, what tone to really strike in those final moments?

Todd Haynes: I would say the whole film navigates this uncertain tone and keep swapping sides and allegiances from character to character as you watch it unfold. But I love that about Sammy’s script.

I love the way it ended with a glimpse into the actual film that Natalie Portman’s character is ultimately going to make. Finally, it’s been cast and now we’re watching the actual process unfold, but it’s a circular process in this search for truth and the irreducible meanings about who people really are. And of course, we don’t ever get there. We leave that in the hands of the audience.

charles melton crying in may december

I’m sure both of you did plenty of work beforehand, but there’s such a short time in the filming. How do you both go back and forth on really drawing out Joe’s vulnerability?

Charles Melton: The audition process for me lasted about six weeks, and that’s kind of where I started to really dive into who Joe was. And once I found out that I booked the role of Joe, I remember seeing this phone call and the area code was Portland, Oregon. I was really excited and Todd and I talked about really not so much what Joe would look like, but how he would feel like. And that kind of just started this collaboration. I came to Savannah, Georgia earlier and hung out with Todd and got to see a few locations and just really those 23 days in Savannah, Georgia, what a gift. What a gift.

Did casting Charles affect your view of Joe?

Todd Haynes: Oh, without a doubt. It was one of those moments that directors always look back on and say, “Wow,” discovering this actor gave me new insight into the character that he’s playing. And that’s part of the whole process, you’re making things three-dimensional and real that are on a page and you keep learning what the truth of that thing really is as it manifests in front of you.

But Charles’s performance stood out from the other actors in its interpretation and its incredible sense of being locked up in a shell for so long and then it was capable that we would have the experience of watching him take those first steps out.

On a very different note, many moons ago, I heard that you were going to be in a movie called K-Pop: Lost in America with Cha Eunwoo. I was just wondering if that still exists in the world?

Charles Melton: I’m not aware of this. [Laughs] Do I have a job?

About May December

May December Natalie Portman Julianne Moore

Twenty years after their notorious tabloid romance gripped the nation, a married couple (Julianne Moore, Charles Melton) buckles under the pressure when an actress (Natalie Portman) arrives to do research for a film about their past.

Check out our other interview with Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman.

May December is currently playing in select theaters and arrives December 1 on Netflix.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

  • May December Poster

    May December

    Release Date:

    Todd Haynes

    Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton


    113 Minutes

    Drama, Romance

    Samy Burch, Alex Mechanik

    Gloria Sanchez Productions, Killer Films, MountainA



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