In the most recent film directed by Todd Haynes, “May December,” Joe Yoo raises monarch butterflies in the house he and his wife, Gracie Atherton-Yoo, share.
When Joe was thirteen and Gracie, his boss, was an adult with children of the same age, they first crossed paths twenty years ago at a pet store.
Now that he and his wife have three grown children, the last two of whom are about to head off to college, Joe takes comfort in tending to his insects.
The butterflies are a metaphor for Joe’s difficult past, which was characterized by abuse and the early responsibilities of parenthood during his adolescent years, and they represent the love and care that Joe did not receive.
Julianne Moore’s character Gracie depends on Joe for emotional stability, which makes it difficult for him to put his own needs first. Joe, who is 36 years old, is shown as a man trying to escape the confines of his past but feeling like he is trapped in a cocoon.
Todd Haynes shares views about his film
Haynes challenges a culture that found it difficult to accept the possibility that an impressionable teenage boy could also be the victim of abuse by rehashing incidents that were once dismissed as sensational tabloid fodder.
By presenting the story through the entirely fictional character Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman), who is slated to play Gracie in an upcoming biopic, Haynes draws attention to that voyeurism.
When Elizabeth visits the Atherton-Yoo home on a research assignment, the two women have a psychological pas de deux. However, it is Joe who learns the most in the end, as Elizabeth’s prodding makes him recognize the unsettling tragedy of his circumstances.
“May December,” which is currently available on Netflix, is partially based on a mid-1990s tabloid staple.
Mary Kay Letourneau was a middle school teacher who got into trouble when she started having sex with Vili Fualaau, a teenager.
Similar to Letourneau, Gracie was imprisoned and gave birth to Joe’s oldest child there. Following her release, she married the now-young man in Georgia and registered as a sex offender, following Letourneau’s example in Washington state.
Charles Melton was excited to work with Todd Haynes
Melton, 32, who plays Reggie Mantle on The CW’s “Riverdale,” said in a Washington Post interview that he eagerly jumped at the chance to work with Todd Haynes and the outstanding cast.
He took a sympathetic approach to Samy Burch’s screenplay, describing it as a “beautiful blueprint” tailored for Joe. Melton drew comparisons between his responsibilities and Joe’s deep sense of duty to his family.
Melton recalled a young moment when his father gave a “motivating speech about responsibility and taking care of my mother and two sisters.” In retrospect, he noted that when a child grows into shoes that are currently too big, they can’t help but do so in the hopes of eventually fitting into them.
“May December” is not a subtle film
“May December” isn’t afraid to tell audacious tales.”May December” isn’t afraid to tell audacious tales.
Haynes purposefully included a melodramatic piano score from the 1971 movie “The Go-Between,” emphasizing how ridiculous it is to treat stories like Letourneau and Fualaau’s or Gracie and Joe’s as simple entertainment.
The movie shows Joe a sympathy that his real-life counterpart might not have always felt, highlighting the fact that Joe is still suspended at the age that Gracie started the abuse in many ways. His naive interest in studying caterpillars stands in stark contrast to Gracie’s obvious contempt for her husband’s “bugs.”
Despite this, Joe tells Elizabeth that he doesn’t want to be perceived as a victim all the time, much like Fualaau did when he publicly rejected the victim label. He makes the deliberate decision as an adult to stay with Gracie and actively engage in their children’s upbringing.
He is convinced of the sincerity of their passionate love and the elegance of the family they have created. In a moving scene, he breaks down in tears as he gives his teenage son Charlie his first-ever blunt.
Joe expresses pride in the moment and illustrates the paradox of his arrested youth and accelerated maturity.