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Tom’s Guide
Tom’s Guide
Malcolm McMillan

This new Netflix movie based on a true story has 92% on Rotten Tomatoes

May December. (L to R) Natalie Portman as Elizabeth Berry and Julianne Moore as Gracie Atherton-Yoo in May December. Cr. Francois Duhamel / Courtesy of Netflix.

When it comes to what you should watch this weekend on one of the best streaming services, Todd Haynes’ movie May December should shoot to the top of your list. The Netflix movie has been beloved by critics since its festival debut and the buzz has continued through the film’s theatrical run. And starting today (Dec. 1) you can stream this Oscar hopeful on Netflix as part of your subscription.

Starring Natalie Portman and Juliane Moore, May December is loosely based on the true story of Mary Kay Letourneau, an elementary school teacher who was arrested and convicted of rape of her 12-year-old student.

As she researches Gracie’s life and her relationship with Joe, Portman’s Berry becomes more and more drawn into the character she is becoming — possibly beyond the point of no return.

Now, that’s an interesting story in its own right, but the story gets much, much weirder. In May December, Moore plays Gracie Atherton-Yoo, a fictional version of Letourneau who, like Letourneau, goes on to have a child with her underage lover Joe Yoo (Charles Melton) while she is still in prison. Once she is out, they continue their relationship, which at the time of the movie’s start has lasted 23 years and produced two additional children.

Again, this could be interesting enough on its own — a loosely inspired retelling of a shocking true story. But May December takes it a step further by introducing Portman’s character, the actress Elizabeth Berry. Berry has decided to make Gracie the focus of her next movie, which will be about Gracie and Joe’s illicit relationship.

As she researches Gracie’s life and her relationship with Joe, Portman’s Berry becomes more and more drawn into the character she is becoming — possibly beyond the point of no return.

Critics and audiences are sold on Netflix’s May December 

If this sounds like the beginning of a possible horror/thriller movie, you’re not crazy. There’s something deeply unsettling about May December, something that critics will quickly point out if you peruse Rotten Tomatoes

But that hasn’t stopped the film from getting rave reviews. Critics rate May December 92% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, earning the film a certified fresh badge to go along with a critical rating score of 8 out of 100 across 193 reviews. 

Portman and Moore are — unsurprisingly —  praised for their performances, including by David Fear of Rolling Stone, who equates the two acting heavyweights as “immovable objects and irresistible forces.” 

The movie also garners praise for its “satire of true crime and our fascination with tabloid criminality” in Richard Crouse’s review and The New York Times's Manohla Dargis says it does an excellent job of layering its movie within a movie construction.

Audiences are even more bullish on the Netflix hit, rating it 93% “fresh” and scoring it a 4.6 out of 10 on average. Here too, praise is heaped upon the talented acting of Portman and Moore, but there’s also praise for Melton’s portrayal of Yoo. One audience reviewer calls Melton’s performance “my favorite part of this film” and several others wax poetic about how much they were moved by his performance as Yoo.

So it should be no surprise that May December is already garnering Oscar buzz for Netflix. On top of the positive reception from critics and audiences, the film has won many of the awards it has been nominated for so far, including several acting awards for Melton. So watch May December on Netflix this weekend if you’re looking to stream one of the best movies this year.

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