Todd Haynes’ ‘May December’ to Open the 61st New York Film Festival

The dark comedy starring Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore will have its North American premiere at the fall festival

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in "May December"

Todd Haynes’ new film “May December” will open the 61st New York Film Festival on Sept. 29, Film at Lincoln Center announced Tuesday. The opening will mark the film’s North American debut. The director and cast, which includes Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore and Charles Melton, will attend the screening.

“May December” had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where it was warmly received and acquired by Netflix. Written by first-time screenwriter Samy Burch, the dark comedy is Haynes’ first narrative film since 2019’s “Dark Waters.” It stars Portman as Elizabeth, a TV actor who travels to Savannah to study Gracie (Moore), whom she will portray onscreen and who, along with her significantly younger husband Joe (Melton), was once a target for tabloids. Elizabeth attempts to immerse herself in their lives to fully understand what made them such irresistible tabloid fodder. According to the press release, “As Elizabeth attempts to get closer to the family, the uncomfortable facts of their scandal unfurl, causing difficult, long-dormant emotions to resurface.”

“We are all so proud and moved to have been invited to open the New York Film Festival with the North American premiere of ‘May December,’” director Todd Haynes said in the release. “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.”

“May December” is Haynes’ fifth collaboration with Moore, following “Safe” in 1995, the Douglas Sirk homage “Far from Heaven” in 2002 (for which she was nominated for an Oscar), “I’m Not Here” in 2007 (in which she and a medley of other actors played Bob Dylan) and the 2011 drama “Wonderstruck.” The new film will be released in theaters on Nov. 17 and on Netflix on Dec. 1.

Reviewing “May December” for TheWrap, Tomris Laffly called it a “deliciously shapeshifting, saucily witty psychodrama” and “a mysterious ‘Russian Doll’ of a film on identity and performance that reveals itself in mischievous doses.” He praised all three main stars, calling Portman’s acting “simply breathtaking,” Moore’s turn “stupendous” and Melton’s “swelling performance” one that “slowly but surely steals the film.”

The 61st New York Film Festival runs from Sept. 29 through Oct. 15, 2023. The festival’s Main Slate selection committee is chaired by NYFF Artistic Director Dennis Lim and includes Florence Almozini, Justin Chang, K. Austin Collins and Rachel Rosen. In a statement, Lim said, “‘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. It cements Todd Haynes’ place as one of American cinema’s most brilliant mischief-makers and as an all-time great director of actors. Todd has been a consistent presence at the New York Film Festival for almost his entire career, and we are very excited to open this edition with one of his most dazzling achievements.”

Passes for this year’s NYFF are available for purchase now. Single tickets go on sale September 19 at 12 p.m. ET. Press and industry accreditation opens on July 31.