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by Victoria Alexander

Terrific, riveting but ignores the fact that women can sense a teenage boy’s strong sexual

pheromones and their flattering interest is an overwhelming narcotic. And this is why women are still being arrested for sex with teenage boys.

Gracie Atherton-Yoo (Julianne Moore) was 36 years old when she began a sexual relationship

with a Korean American 13-year-old boy, Joe Yoo (Charles Melton), who worked part-time with

her at a pet store. Gracie was married at the time and had a son, Georgie (Cory Michael Smith), who was friends with Joe. After their sexual affair was discovered, Gracie was sentenced to prison, where she gave birth to Joe’s daughter, Sofia (Jocelyn Sheldon). Upon her release, they married and had twins, Mary (Elizabeth Yu) and Charlie (Gabriel Chung). Gracie and Joe became tabloid famous and sold their wedding photos which allowed them to stay in their Savanah, Georgia community and buy a gorgeous, vast home.

It is now 20 years later, and TV star Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman) is going to play Gracie in

an independent film. It’s never said, but Gracie and Joe certainly could use the money the movie may provide. With eldest daughter away, their twins are about to graduate high school and leave for college. The charity of friends helps. They buy Gracie’s pies. Joe has a job as a radiology technician.

Elizabeth, like some actors who spend time with the real people they will play, goes to Georgia to spend a few days with them. Her intention is to discover the true facts and pick up Gracie’s unique traits. Gracie has a slight regional vocal affectation.

Christian Bale was awarded Best Actor for his role as Dicky Ecklund in THE FIGHTER. Bale told GQ: “[Ecklund], he's such a character. He makes his presence felt all the time. I spent so much time hanging out with Dicky beforehand. Being in Lowell, hanging out with him, going walking around, getting kicked out of bars, having almost every cop stopping and going, 'Hey, hey Dicky!' and then telling me a story about when they arrested him.”

Angelina Jolie became good friends with Mariane Pearl, the woman she played in A MIGHTY HEART.

While Elizabeth says she is not judgmental, the screenplay by Samy Burch, does take a stand.

Elizabeth also meets with Gracie’s first husband, Tom (D.W. Moffet), her lawyer Morris (Lawrence Arancio), and eldest son with Tom, Georgie (Cory Michael Smith). Georgie claims Gracie destroyed his life, yet their relationship is provocatively complicated. A more interesting story begins to emerge.

The director, Todd Haynes, crafts fascinating, emotional performances that expose the character’s true selves. MAY DECEMBER has brilliant performances by Portman and Moore. Portman’s maturity is central and predatory, as Elizabeth plays on Joe’s weaknesses. She tells Joe they are the same age and, well, she is a famous actress, and he is an attractive man long married to an aging woman.

Elizabeth treats Joe as Gracie does, like a child. She has a cruelty that has served her well. The film is structured to show Joe lacks a personal identity. He has been molded by Gracie.

The screenplay is powerful, yet the missing pieces are evident. It is Gracie who agrees to the movie. Joe just goes along. Gracie says she wants to finally give her side of the scandal and money is never discussed.

What Gracie really wants is to remove the stigma of her being a predator of an innocent child.

Haynes shows us who Gracie, Joe and Elizabeth really are: Joe’s infantilization by mommy Gracie, Gracie’s psychological blackmail of Joe, Joe’s enforced passivity, and Elizabeth’s ruthless sophistication.

Elizabeth fails to get Gracie to explain why she discarded her husband and son for a 13-year-old lover. May I suggest that 13-year-old Joe’s sexual interest in Gracie was intoxicating?

Gracie should have known better so she is blamed for seducing Joe. For the movie Elizabeth will make, she will play Gracie as the seductress to a naïve 13-year-old.

Though, in a moment of clarity, Gracie abandons her carefully orchestrated role as a “fantasist” and confronts Joe with a truth.

Humans, using their smelling sense, can perceive pheromones. The pheromone, androstadienone, is present at much higher concentrations in male sweat and can be detected by women, albeit with wide variation in sensitivity. It is generally defined as a putative human pheromone that may make men sexually appealing to women. Only 10% of men are typically believed to secrete an abundant amount of the pheromone, and these men may be considered desirable. Teenage boys sweat a lot and the smell is much stronger than in adult men. This is the pheromone working. A teenage boy’s libido may be so high that their body produces pheromones that can be sensed by females of all ages.

How else can we explain this ruinous behavior continues between women and male teenagers?

In September 2023, an Alabama math teacher at the Crenshaw Christian Academy, was accused of having sex with two teenage boys who had both been her students. Chrystal Frost, 35, a married mother of three, resigned after she was allegedly caught exchanging explicit photos with a student on Snapchat.

In August 2023, a Brown Deer, Wisconsin female teacher was accused of having sex with a student and buying him a gun. According to a criminal complaint, Tyesha Bolden, 34, worked as an 8th grade teacher at Pilgrim Lutheran School in Wauwatosa. The mother of the 8th grade student told police she suspected that the two had a sexual relationship after finding text messages and explicit photos on her son's phone.

In May 2023, a former high school "teacher of the year" was arrested in California for allegedly having sex with a 16-year-old boy and authorities said they "believe there may be additional victims." Tracy Vanderhulst, a 38-year-old math teacher at Yucaipa High School, was arrested for unlawful sexual intercourse involving a minor.

MAY DECEMBER will remind audiences of the sensational 1997 case of 34-year-old Mary Kay Letourneau, a Washington State schoolteacher who was found guilty of having sex with six-grade student Vili Fualaau, who was 12 years old. At the time, Letourneau was married and had four children. Letourneau had encouraged Fualaau’s friendship with her oldest child who was only a year younger than him.

After serving 80 days of a seven-and-a-half year's sentence, Letourneau was released on parole and was promptly caught with Fualaau again and sent to prison for her full term. She was pregnant with Vili’s child. Upon her release, the two married in 2005. At that time, Letourneau was 43, and Fualaau was 21. They already were parents of two children.

MAY DECEMBER has one unfortunate obligation scene reminding us not to forget Portman’s sexual persona. Elizabeth visits the infamous pet store and poses herself as Saint Theresa of Avila in ecstasy. Marring MAY DECEMBER is the horrible music. It is horror movie loud and significantly brings hysterical melodrama to the film. It is best to ignore this glaring misstep and watch Portman give an electrifying performance.

The ALL is Mind; The Universe is Mental.”

🍅 Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer Critic. For a complete list of

Victoria Alexander's movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to:

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