Breaking down the final scene of Netflix's new hit movie, 'May December'

Julianne Moore as Gracie Atherton-Yoo and Natalie Portman as Elizabeth Berry in "May December."
(L-R) Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman in "May December."Francois Duhamel/Netflix
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  • Warning: Major spoilers below for "May December."

  • The movie follows an actor (Natalie Portman) shadowing a woman (Julianne Moore) she'll be playing in a movie.

  • Here's a break down of the movie's ending.

"May December" hit Netflix on Friday, and the drama already has audiences buzzing — largely because of the movie's final scene.

Here, director Todd Haynes ("Far from Heaven," "Carol") examines actor Elizabeth Berry's (Natalie Portman) preparation to undertake her biggest role yet. She's set to portray Gracie Atherton (Julianne Moore), a woman who was convicted of seducing and raping a 13-year-old named Joe (Charles Melton) decades earlier while in her 30s. They later married and started a family.

Natalie Portman as Elizabeth Berry in "May December."
Get that Oscar speech ready, Natalie Portman. François Duhamel/Netflix

Natalie Portman plays Elizabeth, an actor going full method for her character

Elizabeth travels to Savannah, Georgia to shadow Gracie and get to know Joe and their family.

Throughout the movie, we watch Elizabeth go deep into research. She goes to the pet shop where Gracie and Joe were caught having sex 30 years earlier. She speaks to those close to Gracie, including her oldest son Georgie (Cory Michael-Smith), who is the same age as Joe. While they talk, Georgie reveals to Elizabeth that Gracie was sexually abused by her brothers when she was 12.

"That explains a lot," Elizabeth says.

Elizabeth is going full method to get the character right. She even goes so far as to sleep with Joe.

Soon after that, Elizabeth does a three-minute monologue in Gracie's voice, feeling she has finally nailed the character.

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in white tops and sunglasses
We weren't expecting that.Netflix

Elizabeth, and the audience, get quite a shock at the end

Ready to leave Savannah, Elizabeth has one last meeting with Gracie at her and Joe's kids' high school graduation. That's when the movie's biggest shock is delivered: Gracie tells Elizabeth that what Georgie told her was all a lie. She was never abused by her brothers.

"Insecure people are very dangerous," Gracie tells a stunned Elizabeth. "I'm secure, make sure you put that in there."

The movie then cuts to Elizabeth on the set of the movie. Given the point of view of the camera, complete with watermark and time codes on the screen, we watch the seduction scene at the pet shop.

We watch three different takes of Elizabeth as Gracie, holding a snake, and seducing an actor playing Joe. The director believes the third take is the best and is ready to move on but Elizabeth stops him and pleads to shoot one more take.

Natalie Portman on a couch holding a snake
The final shot of "May December."Netflix

Elizabeth struggles to find her character in the last shot of the movie

It's clear that Elizabeth no longer has a grasp on the character after Gracie reveals Georgie's lies. She cannot capture the same performance she did for her monologue after sleeping with Joe.

The final shot also conveys to the audience that the movie Elizabeth is starring in isn't very high-end.

From Elizabeth holding a snake (a not-so-subtle way of making the Gracie character seductive) to the very basic dialogue, Haynes is commenting on the absurdity of the lengths actors will go for their prep work.

Elizabeth begging for another take shows that she's desperately trying to make a B-movie better than it inevitably will be.

This calls back to what Gracie asks Elizabeth before she leaves Savannah: "I wonder if any of this will have really mattered for your movie?"

Julianne Moore as Gracie Atherton-Yoo and Charles Melton as Joe Yoo in "May December."
Julianne Moore and Charles Melton in "May December."Courtesy of Netflix

Are Gracie and Joe based on anyone in real life?

Their relationship is loosely based on the real-life sexual abuse scandal in the late 1990s between Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau. Letourneau was Fualaau's second and sixth-grade teacher.

They eventually had a sexual relationship when Letourneau was 34 and Fualaau was 12.

Letourneau served seven years in prison for statutory rape.

Letourneau and Fualaau married in 2005. Fualaau filed for separation in 2017 and their divorce was finalized two years later.

"May December" is now streaming on Netflix.

Read the original article on Business Insider