NEW YORK – The 61st New York Film Festival will kick off with Todd Haynes' “May December,” a juicy drama starring Natalie Portman as an actor preparing for a film about a years-ago tabloid scandal.
Film at Lincoln Center, which puts on the New York Film Festival, announced Tuesday that “May December” — one of the standouts at this year's Cannes Film Festival — will be the opening night film at this year's edition. The gala will take place Sept. 29 at Alice Tully Hall.
In it, Portman plays a well-known TV star who, to research a role, spends time with Gracie (Julianne Moore) and her much-younger husband, Joe (Charles Melton). They're a seemingly happy suburban family whose initial affair 20 years earlier, when Joe was 13, was a national story. Their backstory is loosely based on the case of Mary Kay Letourneau, a Washington State schoolteacher convicted of raping her sixth-grade student, Vili Fualaau. They later married.
“'May December' is a tour de force of writing, acting, and directing: a film built on moment-to-moment surprise, as thought-provoking as it is purely pleasurable,” said Dennis Lim, the festival's artistic director, in a statement. “It cements Todd Haynes’s place as one of American cinema’s most brilliant mischief-makers and as an all-time great director of actors."
Following its Cannes premiere, Netflix acquired “May December” and will release it in theaters Nov. 17 and on the streaming platform Dec. 1. The NYFF launch will return Haynes to a festival he's regularly attended over the years. His “Velvet Goldmine,” “I'm Not There," “Carol,” “Wonderstruck” and “The Velvet Underground” have all previously played at the festival.
“It is a festival that plays a role in my work and life like no other in the world, since it enshrines the cultural life of this city, which is both my creative home as a filmmaker and, as ever, the eternal site of artistic possibility," Haynes said in a statement.
The New York Film Festival runs Sept. 29—Oct. 15.