Fans who watched the Netflix film May December were thrilled that it racked up four nominations for the 2024 Golden Globes, but many were left wondering why it was submitted in the comedy or musical category instead of drama, where most felt it belonged.

What Is ‘May December’ About?

The film is loosely based on the controversial romance between married Washington school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau and her sixth-grade student Vili Fualaau.

Julianne Moore plays Gracie Atherton Yoo, a former pet store worker who fell for coworker Joe Yoo, played by Charles Melton, even though she was an adult and he was 13 years old at the time. In the movie, they have long been married and their twin daughter and son are about to graduate from high school and go away to college. Joe is now 36 and conflicted about his future and how he’s going to live his life alone with just Gracie, no longer having the commitment of raising their children together.

Natalie Portman arrives as a TV star who has signed on to play Gracie in a movie about the couple’s illicit romance. She becomes intertwined with both Joe and Gracie in separate ways while doing research for the film.

'Is May December' a Comedy?
Courtesy of Netflix

Who Are Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau?

Mary Kay was a married mother with four children when, in 1996, she began her illegal relationship with Vili, who was 12 years old. She ended up becoming pregnant and gave birth the following year to their daughter Audrey. Mary Kay’s husband, Steve Letourneau, divorced her upon learning of her relationship with Vili.

She began a six-month prison sentence in 1997 after pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape, ​although Mary Kay ended up spending three months in jail following a plea agreement. Per the deal she was to have no contact with Vili. Upon her release, Mary Kay and Vili were caught by police together in a car in February 1998. This time she was ordered to spend seven years in prison, which is where she gave birth to the couple’s second child, Georgia, in October 1998.

Mary Kay and Vili married on May 20, 2005, less than a year after her release. The pair divorced in 2019 and Mary Kay died on July 6, 2020, from colorectal cancer.

Why Is ‘May December’ a Comedy?

Viewers aren’t sure, as while the film has a few instances of humor, the subject matter is quite heavy. Many took to X to say it was clearly a drama after it got a comedy nomination at the Globes.

Some have theorized that those behind the movie chose to submit it as a comedy rather than a drama due to it having better chances at the awards, as the latter category is stacked with such Oscar contenders as Anatomy of a Fall, Killers of the Flower Moon, Maestro, Oppenheimer, Past Lives and The Zone of Interest.

It was reminiscent of 2016 when Matt Damon’s sci-fi thriller, The Martian, was nominated for Best Comedy or Musical and won in the category.

What Has Charles Melton Said About May December’s Comedy Nomination?

The Riverdale alum, who stars as Joe Yoo opposite Julianne Moore’s Gracie Atherton Yoo, was asked how he felt about the film’s comedy status after receiving a Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role nomination when the Golden Globes were announced on December 11.

“I think filming it, it didn’t feel — with Samy’s script, and the direction of Todd [Haynes], it didn’t feel funny, it’s a pretty complex kind of script,” Charles told The Hollywood Reporter upon his nomination, ​adding, “And I think the only thing we can do, as artists, when making a project, for me as an actor, is to tell the character’s story. We have really no control of how the audience is going to receive what they see.”

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