Inside the Uncharted Depths of May December: A Screenwriter’s Tabloid-Inspired Odyssey!

Delve into the captivating narrative journey behind ‘May December’—a screenwriter’s bold venture inspired by tabloid culture. Explore the creative depths, character complexities, and the uncharted territories of storytelling in this exclusive article.

May December Movie
May December is streaming on Netflix.

The essence of Todd Haynes’s Netflix flick, May December, seemingly echoes the tale of Mary Kay Letourneau—a narrative delving into deceptive facades and the hidden depths beneath. Letourneau, convicted for her inappropriate relationship with a 12-year-old student, Vili Fualaau, maintained a bond spanning over two decades, facing constant public scrutiny. May December sprouted from pondering their children reaching adulthood, envisioning the couple in an empty nest, divorcing in 2019 around the script’s inception.

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However, Samy Burch’s genius lies in crafting an entirely new narrative, stripping away the teacher-student dynamic and specific identities to birth fresh characters—Julianne Moore’s Gracie, a baker and former pet shop employee, and Charles Melton’s Joe, Korean American. The story orbits around the arrival of Natalie Portman’s Elizabeth, set to portray Gracie in a movie. Burch, unfettered by research, drew from her personal experiences in a tabloid-driven ’90s culture, evoking a raw, unrestricted narrative.

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Growing up amidst tabloid sensations like O.J. Simpson and Monica Lewinsky, Burch felt the weight of that era’s sensationalism. Despite a frustrating start in the industry, she poured herself into writing May December, steering clear of true crime due to the responsibility it entailed. Memories merged with reality, the script embodying a boldly comedic tone and intricate character psychologies, all born from Burch’s pursuit of emotional truths rather than historical accuracy.

Burch’s dedication to character depth shone through extensive biographies, hidden beneath the surface of the final script, revealing nuances and tensions within Gracie, Joe, and Elizabeth. Her fearlessness in navigating psychological complexities resulted in a narrative climax where Joe confronts Gracie about their suppressed lives.

Despite her past experience with an unproduced true-crime script, May December became a defining work, echoing the tabloid-infused world it encapsulates. Burch pondered society’s insatiable appetite for human misery and exploitation, confronting these notions while writing mostly confined to a makeshift office—a small, windowless space retrofitted for her creative pursuits.

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Drawing inspiration from genre-bending classics like Heavenly Creatures and Badlands, Burch blended cutting comedy with poignant drama, aligning with her writerly ambitions. Her journey extended beyond comfort zones as May December garnered attention, leading her to pen the script for Coyote vs. Acme, a Looney Tunes project amidst its distribution turmoil.

Despite initial doubts, Burch’s character-centric approach led her to dive into even the Roadrunner’s psyche, signifying her unwavering commitment to storytelling anchored in rich, multifaceted characters.

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