The reviews are in for Netflix‘s May December, and the critical acclaim it’s receiving may make it a contender during Oscar season. In this film, Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Alright) plays Gracie Atherton-Yoo, a former teacher who seduced her student (and future husband), Joe Yoo (Riverdale‘s Charles Melton), when he was only 13. Now, in the present, Elizabeth Berry (Black Swan‘s Natalie Portman) is an actress who is spending time with the Yoo family because she is playing Gracie in the big screen adaptation of their lives. And Elizabeth is getting a little too involved in her drive to understand Gracie and Joe’s relationship.
May-December romances between an older woman and a younger man, or vice versa, are not uncommon in Hollywood. And while there aren’t many films with the exact plot of May December, we have chosen three of the most prominent examples of May-December romances that should appeal to anyone who saw Netflix’s new drama.
The Graduate has perhaps one of the most famous May-December romances in cinema history between Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) and Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the wife of his father’s business partner. Things get really messy when Benjamin’s parents and Mr. Braddock (William Daniels) push him to date the Braddock’s daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross). Obviously, they wouldn’t have done so if they had known Ben was sleeping with Mrs. Braddock.
When Ben feels a more genuine connection with Elaine, Mrs. Robinson does everything she can to sabotage it, even revealing her affair with him. This film also features the hauntingly beautiful songs of Simon and Garfunkel, many of which have become more famous than the movie itself.
Watch The Graduate on Freevee.
There is a potential May-December romance in 2001’s Oscar-winner for Best Picture, American Beauty, but it’s largely one-sided. Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a burned-out middle-aged man who becomes infatuated with Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari), the best friend of Lester’s teenage daughter, Jane Burnham (Thora Birch).
Meanwhile, Lester’s wife, Carolyn Burnham (Annette Bening), is having an affair of her own, and she doesn’t understand why her husband is so happy and pleased with himself after a lifetime of mediocrity. It’s because Lester has found his happiness within, regardless of whether he ever manages to get together with Angela.
Watch American Beauty on Netflix.
Truthfully, almost any romance movie with Jack Nicholson after 1983 could qualify as a May-December romance. Much like the actor himself, Nicholson’s characters tend to date much younger women. As Good As It Gets is a rarity because Helen Hunt’s Carol Connelly is only 26 years younger than Nicholson’s Melvin Udall. In Hollywood terms, that’s progress!
This sharp romantic drama doesn’t make it easy for Melvin and Carol to get together. He’s a wealthy author with extreme difficulty relating to people, while she’s a waitress preoccupied with caring for her sick son. The thing that starts to bring them together is Simon Bishop (Greg Kinnear), Melvin’s neighbor who is violently assaulted during a robbery. When Melvin is coerced into helping care for Simon and his dog, he uses that as an excuse to draw Carol more intimately into his life.
Although the ad campaign made it appear as if the film would have a romance between Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore’s characters, the actual plot of the film seems to have taken some cues from the real-life story of Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher who infamously had sex with one of her students and married him when she got out of prison.
The USA Network adapted the real-life scandal way back in 2000 with All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story, a cable TV movie starring Penelope Ann Miller as Mary Kay, Omar Anguiano as her underaged student/lover Vili Fualaau, and Oscar-winner Mercedes Ruehl as Jane Newhall. While the middling quality is typical of its era and network (USA also aired Silk Stockings and Campus Cops around this time), the movie is fascinating to watch because the end result is probably the exact fictional film Natalie Portman’s character ends up making in the movie: mostly factual, kinda low budget, and somewhat sleazy.
All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story is streaming for free on Tubi.
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