In the third collaborative effort between director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult
), Charlize Theron returns as Marlo, an overwhelmed New York suburban mother of two with a third ready to arrive at any moment. Her hands full with a pregnancy, a household, a pre-teen and a "quirky" child (showing all of the signs of autism but with no actual diagnosis), Marlo's brother (the always brilliant Mark Duplass) offers to pay for a night nanny to help share the burden.
doesn't portray the glory of motherhood with soft lighting and soothing music, but rather the messy, screaming, ugly, frustrating, life and body altering experience that it can be. Theron's body holds the baby weight almost never shown in films, the lactation leaks that all mothers experience but are never shown in entertainment, and the exhausting mental toll that weighs down anyone trying to keep an infant alive.
It would be easy to praise Theron's performance as "brave" or "powerful," but the fact is that she merely gave one of the most authentic portrayals of the un-glamorous aspects of motherhood. It's an impressive feat mostly because a studio actually allowed the raw honesty of pregnancy and postpartum.
Marlo's husband Drew (Ron Livingston) plays the same character he always does, the everyman trying his best while simultaneously not trying at all. In his eyes, the responsibility of fatherhood lies less with father-child interaction and moreso working to pay all of the expenses. He comes home in a great mood with children excited to see him, while Marlo sulks away in the living room just hoping for a few moments of peace.
When the titular night-nurse Tully arrives, the whimsical and witty strength of Diablo Cody's script comes into play. Many complained about the unrealistic dialogue of her teen flicks Juno
and Jennifer's Body
, but I would argue that Tully
is her best work. There's a level of sincerity in the humor that had yet to be expressed, but Cody absolutely nails it with this one.
Our titular character is unlike any nanny ever seen on screen. She's like if Mary Poppins was raised at Coachella. A sexually fluid free spirit with an innate ability to bring joy everyone around her, Tully cleans the entire house while the family sleeps, she makes monster cupcakes that would rival the perfect moms on Pinterest and even guides Marlo in spicing up her lackluster sex life with her husband.
Mackenzie Davis smashed onto the scene with her performance in the Emmy award winning episode of Black Mirror,
"San Junipero." If audiences don't know her yet, they will now. Theron's performance is unflinchingly powerful, but there's an effortless charm about Davis that makes Tully otherworldly and yet somehow relatable. Tully is the nanny parents have always dreamed of, and her presence allows Marlo the ability to sleep and function like a real human
for the first time in years.
Things change dramatically after Marlo and Tully escape the throws of motherhood for one night in a revisit of Marlo's old stomping grounds in New York City, and the truth about Tully's intentions with Marlo and her family come to a head. This isn't a Lifetime
movie or The Hand That Rocks The Cradle,
but something far more heartbreaking that drew gasps from the press screening audience last night.
is a powerful examination of what it means to be a mother, and the sacrifices women make in order to focus on providing the best possible life for their children. Parenthood isn't always the incredible gift we'd like it to be, and sometimes it takes another person to help you to look deep inside and remind you why you made the parental sacrifices in the first place.