While speaking to The Daily Beast, Haynes said that even though Samy Burch’s story was inspired by the Mary Kay Letourneau case, he distanced himself from the real-life events during filming … but acknowledged that they were still a part of the process. “I really started by pushing that to the side and just being like, ‘OK, let’s bear down on the specific choices and the distinctions that Samy Burch’s script makes from the Mary Kay Letourneau story.’ But there was no way ultimately to not.”
This is, perhaps, why one of the film’s most difficult scenes seems to directly mirror a 2018 interview with Letourneau and Vili Fualaau. In that discussion, Letourneau makes several horrifying claims — including that while she was technically older than Fualaau, he was an adult in his ways. (Fualaau was 12 years old when Letourneau sexually assaulted him.) When the interviewer pushes back, Letourneau repeatedly and abrasively asks Fualaau, “Who was the boss? Who was the boss back then?” At that moment, the power imbalance is crystal clear.
The way Haynes chooses to mirror this dynamic in “May December” is simultaneously fascinating and repellant. Towards the end of “May December,” Joe confronts Gracie — finally asking if what happened between them when he was a child was wrong. Gracie’s mild-mannered demeanor falls away. “You seduced me,” she tells him. “Who was in charge? Who was in charge?”