NYFF Opening Night Goes On With ‘May December’ as Storm Floods City

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The show must go on! New York Film Festival opened its 61st edition with “May December” as planned, despite a massive rainstorm that’s left streets and subways flooded across the five boroughs.

“Thank you all for braving the weather and making it here tonight,” director Todd Haynes told the mostly full theater. “We didn’t know what to expect.” 

On one of the wettest N.Y. days in recent years, Haynes walked the red carpet at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and sat for a post-screening Q&A. The stars of the soapy drama, Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore and Charles Melton, weren’t able to attend in accordance with SAG-AFTRA strike rules.

Haynes expressed his disappointment that the cast couldn’t celebrate at the premiere. “We miss you guys,” he said, referring to Portman, Moore and Melton. “We stand by you. We want it to get resolved.”

NYFF artistic director Dennis Lim added, “I wanted to express our hope for a resolution as soon as possible.”

Since the WGA strike has been lifted, the film’s screenwriter, Samy Burch, was able to join Haynes and producers for the post-premiere panel. As a longtime fan of Haynes’ work, Burch shared that she couldn’t believe he’d be directing a script that she’d written: “I remember getting that call and being frozen in the doorway. It was extreme shock and awe.”

Earlier on Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency and urged people to stay off the roads as rain water-logged parts of the city, making it difficult to get around by car or train. The flash floods started to let up in the middle of the day, though New York City Mayor Eric Adams still cautioned any people trying to traverse the streets. “This is a dangerous weather condition and it is not over,” he said during a briefing.

By Friday night, the rain had mostly let up, so guests made their way to Central Park for the annual afterparty, hosted by Campari, Tavern on the Green.

“May December” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where Netflix acquired distribution rights for $20 million. The story centers on the scandalous 20-year age gap between married couple Gracie and Joe (Moore and Melton), whose relationship sparked a national tabloid scandal because Joe was 13 years old when the two fell in love. Decades later, the pair are still together (with kids!) but their union is put to the test when popular TV actor Elizabeth (Portman) travels to Georgia to study the life of Gracie, whom she’ll be playing in a movie.

Haynes, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “Far From Heaven,” has a long history with NYFF, where he’s screened films like “Velvet Goldmine,” “Carol” and “The Velvet Underground.” This is the first time he’s had a movie open the New York Film Festival.

“It felt overdue to acknowledge Todd in this slot,” the festival’s artistic director Dennis Lim told Variety prior to the premiere. “It’s one of the wittiest scripts, and it’s beautifully acted and directed. We think about how a film will play in a room, and this one checks all the boxes.”

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