May December, a new movie about a married couple with a dark history, hit Netflix on Dec. 1, and has already been causing a stir. The film stars Julianne Moore and Charles Melton as the married couple, while Natalie Portman plays an actress who is preparing for a role in a movie about their relationship. What’s so troubling about the story is the fact that Julianne’s character, Gracie, was 36 when she was caught having an illegal sexual relationship with her now-husband, Joe. At the time, Joe was just 13. (Having sex with a minor is a felony, and it can result in decades of prison time. The age of consent is generally 16, but varies depending on the state.)
Years later, the couple is eager to explain themselves to those who don’t understand their complicated relationship, and for that reason, they're excited about the movie being made about them. During their time with the actress portraying Gracie, Elizabeth, she asks them questions about their history, and Joe begins to contemplate how his relationship with Gracie came about.
Of course, if you were reading the newspapers in the 1990s, you might think this story sounds awfully familiar. That's because it's loosely based on true events in Washington state.
Is May December based on a true story?
May December is considered to be a work of fiction, but the film is loosely inspired by the story of Mary Kay Letourneau, 34, an elementary school teacher who had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student, Vili Fualaau, in 1997.
In 1997, Letourneau, who was a married mother of four, announced that she was having an affair with her sixth-grade student, Fualaau. She met him when he was in second grade and formed a romantic and sexual relationship with him, per Time Magazine.
In an A&E documentary made a few years before her death (and before her divorce from her second husband Fualaau), Letourneau defended herself. "Am I sorry he’s the father of my children, and that we’re married and this is the man of my life?" she said. "No, I am not."
What happened to Mary Kay Letourneau?
Letourneau’s husband found letters that Fualaau had written to his wife and contacted Child Protective Services, per People.
She was arrested for child rape in March of 1997 and pleaded guilty to two counts of child rape, per the New York Times' contemporary account. Her husband filed for divorce and moved with their four kids to Alaska, per the NYT.
Letourneau then spent six months in prison before being released on parole. She was ordered to take medication for bipolar disorder, enter a treatment program for ex offenders, and never have contact with Fualaau, according to People. However, she broke her parole by seeing him, and went back to jail a year later, the outlet reported.
In 2004, Letourneau was released from prison, and she and Fualaau got the court order that prevented them from seeing one another removed. Upon her release, Letourneau was listed as a registered sex offender, per NBC.
Letourneau and Fualaau got married in 2005. He was just 22 and she was 43. The couple were married for over a decade before legally separating in 2017, per the Washington Post. The couple officially divorced in 2019.
Together, they had two children. Letourneau gave birth to their first daughter, Audrey, in May of 1997, and their second daughter, Georgia, in October of 1998. They were both born while Letourneau was serving time in prison. You can read the contemporary reporting about the event in the New York Times.
In 2015, Letourneau explained that she wanted to have her name taken off the registry. “Recently I said, ‘It’s been 10 years, why don’t I lift that?’” she said in a 20/20 interview, per People. “There’s a process, there’s a form, you take it to court and then they grant it if it looks like it should be granted.”
In 2020, she died from stage 4 colon cancer at age 58, the NYT reported.
Where is Vili Fualaau now?
Fualaau welcomed his third daughter in May of 2022. He is on his way to becoming a grandfather as his youngest daughter with Letourneau, Georgia, is currently expecting her first child, he recently shared with People.
Now that you're all caught up on the story that inspired the film, you can catch May December streaming on Netflix now.
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