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Despite a massive rainstorm causing floods throughout New York City, the 61st edition of the New York Film Festival (NYFF) opened as planned with the screening of “May December.” Director Todd Haynes expressed gratitude to the audience for braving the weather, acknowledging that they didn’t know what to expect due to the downpour.
On a day marked by heavy rain, Todd Haynes walked the red carpet at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and later participated in a post-screening Q&A session. Unfortunately, the film’s stars, Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, and Charles Melton, were unable to attend due to SAG-AFTRA strike rules.
Haynes expressed his disappointment over the absence of the cast, stating, “We miss you guys. We stand by you. We want it to get resolved.” NYFF artistic director Dennis Lim also expressed hope for a swift resolution to the strike.
With the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike lifted, the film’s screenwriter, Samy Burch, was able to join Haynes and the producers for the post-premiere panel. Burch, a longtime fan of Haynes’ work, described her shock and excitement upon learning that he would be directing her script.
Earlier on the same day, Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency and urged people to stay off the roads due to the flooding in parts of the city. The flash floods began to subside during the day, but Mayor Eric Adams advised caution to those navigating the streets, emphasizing that the weather conditions remained dangerous.
By Friday night, the rain had mostly stopped, allowing guests to attend the annual afterparty in Central Park, hosted by Campari at Tavern on the Green.
“May December” originally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where Netflix acquired distribution rights for $20 million. The film explores the controversial 20-year age gap between married couple Gracie and Joe, portrayed by Julianne Moore and Charles Melton. The couple’s relationship, which began when Joe was 13 years old, sparked a national scandal. The story takes a closer look at their enduring union and is further tested when popular TV actor Elizabeth, played by Natalie Portman, arrives to study Gracie’s life for an upcoming movie.
Todd Haynes, known for his Oscar-nominated screenplay for “Far From Heaven,” has a history with NYFF, having previously screened films like “Velvet Goldmine,” “Carol,” and “The Velvet Underground.” However, “May December” marks the first time one of his films has opened the New York Film Festival, with artistic director Dennis Lim praising the film’s witty script, exceptional performances, and direction.