Charlize Theron Mackenzie Davis Mark Duplass Ron Livingston
Watching this movie is difficult first of all because we’re made to experience what a depressed mother goes through, but also, it’s so hard to see Charlize Theron’s gorgeous body gone to pot. Her character Marlo is pregnant, but she is also huge, and sits slouched down with breasts hanging and feet splayed out in front of her. I understand Theron gained 50 pounds to look like the character, but also felt she needed to eat poorly as well to get within the character’s mind. Her intentions are entirely successful.
Beyond simple depression, Marlo has developed cynicism and a defeated attitude that makes her feel and act incompetent. Her relationship with her husband Drew (Livingston) is indifferent, with not one spark of emotion. Marlo has a testy relationship with her brother Craig (Duplass) and his wife who seem to have everything together, which only makes Marlo feel worse. But her brother does care about her and offers to provide her with a “night nanny” after her baby is born. She is negative about this, as she is in general, and vacillates back and forth before finally giving the woman a call.
Tully (Davis) appears on the scene like Mary Poppins, getting the household organized (even though she only works in the evening) and functioning as it should ideally. But she does much more than that; she’s almost like a live-in therapist, providing the mothering that Marlo clearly had missed as a child. She counters Marlo’s cynicism and self put-downs with positive statements about her abilities and accomplishments. This has a profound effect on Marlo. We see her gradually begin to enjoy life, relate to her family with warmth and ease, and give some attention to her health and appearance.
What about these changes? Will they last? What happens when the nanny’s service is ended? Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody give us some inkling, but major drama will take place in the meantime, with an unbelievable twist at the end. The twist is the most implausible aspect of the film, serving more as a gimmick than contributing to the quality of the film.
Reitman seems to possess an unusually perceptive awareness of women, as shown by his previous films like Juno, Labor Day,and Young Adult, as well as this one. He seems to have an understanding of their basic psychology and links that to how they confront problems and manage them. This time, he demonstrates how invaluable an experience of being mothered is to being a good mother. Although I deeply appreciate that aspect of his work, this story bogs down in places, although, granted, the subject matter pulls it down too. Rob Simonsen’s music counteracts this to a great extent, contributing significantly to the drama, and enlivening the emotionality of every scene.
I admire Theron’s ability to transform herself into so many diverse characters, as in Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde, and Monster, and wonder if perhaps this role was more difficult for her to enact than the others, in that the character is more everyday and depressed, as opposed to a fiery femme fatale. It certainly demonstrates with the others, the phenomenal range of her abilities. Ron Livingston and Mackenzie Davis convincingly support the main character, each showing a significant transformation in the course of the story.
The import of Tullymay not be immediately obvious, or may seem mundane or banal. But given further contemplation, it can be regarded as a film that highlights the dilemma of many American mothers who are completely unprepared for motherhood and its challenges in today’s world.
Ask yourself how well you might handle the situations presented in this film.
Grade: C+ By Donna R. Copeland