Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore: A Reflection on Past Oscar Wins

In the buzzing atmosphere of early awards season 2023, Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore are once again in the limelight, courtesy of their stellar performances in “May December.” As seasoned actors accustomed to critical acclaim, both have previously clinched the prestigious Academy Award for Best Actress—Portman for “Black Swan” in 2011 and Moore for “Still Alice” in 2015. Recently, the duo took a moment to reflect on their illustrious careers during an appearance on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live.”

Reflecting on Oscar Wins

While acknowledging the significance of their Oscar-winning roles, Portman and Moore candidly shared their opinions on other performances they believed were equally, if not more, deserving of the coveted accolade. Portman expressed her sentiment about her role in “Jackie,” a 2016 biopic portraying the iconic first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Despite a nomination, Portman faced stiff competition and lost to Emma Stone for “La La Land.” Moore, on the other hand, felt that her portrayal of Cathy Whitaker in the 2002 film “Far From Heaven” was a standout moment in her career, overshadowed by Nicole Kidman’s win for “The Hours.”

May December: A Unique Cinematic Venture

The paths of Portman and Moore converged in the film “May December,” directed by Todd Haynes. The narrative, loosely inspired by the real-life Mary Kay Letourneau case, unfolds as a thought-provoking exploration of societal norms, relationships, and the complexities of white female sexuality.

Unraveling Tabloid Audacity

The film delves into the audacious era of tabloid TV, reflecting on shows like “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider” during the ’90s and early 2000s. The article discusses how these outlets portrayed the disturbing marriage of Mary Kay Letourneau, a schoolteacher, to her former student Vili Fualaau, presenting it as mundane and suitable for general audiences.

“May December”: A Not-So-Subtle Nod

Haynes’ “May December” takes a not-so-subtle nod to the Letourneau-Fualaau relationship, challenging audiences to reevaluate what society deems as “normal” for couples facing such extraordinary circumstances. The film scrutinizes the complexities of a relationship between Gracie (Moore), a disgraced white woman, and Joe (Charles Melton), an Asian American man, who became entangled when he was just a 13-year-old seventh grader.

Weaponization of White Female Sexuality

A notable aspect of the film is its exploration of the weaponization of white female sexuality, specifically focusing on Gracie’s predatory actions towards Joe. Elizabeth (Portman), a white actress fascinated by the couple, further complicates the narrative by disrupting their lives and aiming to portray Gracie in a sensationalized movie.

Deconstructing Disturbing Images

The article underscores the film’s deconstruction of the vexing image of Letourneau and Fualaau, presenting “May December” as a profound commentary on what constitutes normalcy within unconventional relationships. It also addresses the discomforting drama surrounding the portrayal of white female predators and their manipulation of vulnerable individuals.

Unsettling Moments: Joe’s Plight

“May December” meticulously crafts unsettling moments, with a particular focus on Joe’s character. Charles Melton’s poignant performance brings Joe’s vulnerability to the forefront, especially in scenes where he grapples with the repercussions of his unconventional relationship with Gracie. The film invites the audience to witness Joe’s internal conflicts, emphasizing his lack of agency within the power dynamics of the narrative.

Unveiling Manipulation Tactics

A pivotal scene in the film exposes Gracie’s manipulation tactics as she deflects Joe’s anxieties about their relationship. The article delves into the intricacies of this moment, highlighting Gracie’s calculated efforts to maintain control and reaffirm her dominance as the predator in their relationship. It also emphasizes the impact of such manipulative dynamics on Joe’s understanding of truth and intent.

Elizabeth’s Intricate Role

Natalie Portman’s character, Elizabeth, adds another layer to the film’s complexity. The article explores how Elizabeth, enamored by the normalized abnormality of Gracie and Joe’s relationship, seeks to replicate it for her on-screen performance. The film raises thought-provoking questions about the motivations behind an actor’s process and the potential consequences of pursuing empowerment at the expense of others.

Beyond the Credits: Lingering Questions

As the article concludes, it underscores the lingering impact of “May December” beyond the credits. The film’s refusal to provide a tidy conclusion for Joe’s character leaves audiences with unsettling questions that challenge societal values related to entertainment, empowerment, and safety. “May December” is portrayed as a thought-provoking and unsettling cinematic experience that defies easy answers.


In revisiting Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore’s reflections on their past Oscar wins and exploring the intricacies of “May December,” this article aims to capture the essence of their careers and the profound themes addressed in the film. From the unsettling portrayal of white female predators to the nuanced depiction of relationships deemed unconventional by societal standards, “May December” emerges as a cinematic venture that prompts audiences to confront uncomfortable truths and question established norms.

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Adam Regan
Adam Regan
Deputy Editor

Features and account management. 3 years media experience. Previously covered features for online and print editions.


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