MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Jason Reitman. Starring Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis.
Before watching Tully (the third comedy-drama from writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman who also collaborated on Juno and Young Adult), I was already persuaded that pregnancy and child raising was a difficult and challenging task, beginning with nine months of creating a child followed by another solid nine months of caring for an infant. And, no matter how much I tried to help my wife with our two sons, the brunt of the work was my wife’s to do.
After watching Tully, I was convinced that I should have been horrified about parenting.
Marlo (Theron) is a 40-year-old wife and mother who is challenged even before her baby comes into the world. Her 8-year-old daughter Sarah (Lia Frankland) is insecure and asthmatic and her 6-year-old son Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) is smart and kind but developmentally somewhere on the autism spectrum, prone to enough outbursts that his school is considering moving him out of their kindergarten. Marlo’s husband Drew (Ron Livingstone) is a nice enough guy, but work keeps him travelling out of town; he unwinds by playing video games in their bedroom (considerately wearing headphones).
Once the baby comes into Marlo’s world, things start coming apart. The film depicts accurately the never-ending routine of breast feeding, pumping, changing diapers, and sleep deprivation, while navigating the demands of the other family members.
Marlo’s nouveau riche brother Craig (Mark Duplass) suggests that she get a “night nanny”, a person who can take over things after dark so that she can rest and recharge her batteries. Craig will even pay for it.
One day Tully (Davis) arrives on the scene and just like Mary Poppins (most viewers have caught this analogy), she begins to fix things up for Marlo, helping her clean the house, bake cupcakes for school, and offer some free marital counseling. Tully is in her twenties and full of energy and positivity and Marlo soon finds her life enriched.
But Tully has some of her own needs, including the need for friendship. As the two women become closer to one another, new challenges emerge.
Tully is typical of most of Diablo Cody’s scripts. There is clever dialogue and some thoughtful moments scattered amid a messy and unsatisfying storyline.
The acting is very good, especially from Theron and Davis, but the problems outweigh the positive aspects, including a strangely guarded stance in dealing with autism. By the end of the movie, I left the theater scratching my head but also thankful that somehow most of us figure out parenting in spite of ourselves.
Me? I’m going to watch 19 different movies this summer.
Three halos: Half of a good movie, with some trenchant observations about motherhood mixed in with problematic storytelling.
Three pitchforks: A lot of swearing; a couple of creepy sex scenes.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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