One of my favorite scenes from any movie is the “Does it get easier?” scene from Lost in Translation. Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray are lying in bed discussing the challenges of life. Topics include growing older and marriage and they eventually get to kids. The following quote is from Murray about having children.
“It gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids. It’s the most terrifying moment, the day the first one is born. Your life, as you know it, is gone… never to return.”
This is the first half of his thoughts on having children. He ends the scene with a beautiful statement about how your children will eventually become the most delightful people you will ever meet.
But I want to focus on the first half because I thought about this scene after watching Tully. Jason Reitman’s latest directorial effort sees him reuniting with writer Diablo Cody and star Charlize Theron after their work on Young Adult.
Tully follows Marlo (Theron), a mother of three including a newborn who is having a really hard time with everything that comes with motherhood. Her self-esteem couldn’t be any lower, her middle child, Jonah, requires extra attention and of course, there’s the newborn.
At the insistence of her brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), Marlo hires a night nanny, Tully (Mackenzie Davis), to help with the baby. Hesitant at first, Marlo soon finds comfort in the extra help and begins to reestablish her own life while also forming a bond with Tully.
As someone who doesn’t have children, this movie certainly didn’t shine it in a positive light. Bill Murray was right. Your life as you know it is over. Reitman does a tremendous job illustrating this with a montage early in the film of Marlo’s monotonous daily routine of making lunches, avoiding stepping on Legos, finding new and creative ways to get a baby to sleep and the glamorous nature of lactating. There’s also various shots of strange and random stains throughout the house. Also, it never occurred to me that you will have to eventually cut your baby’s finger nails. Try doing that to a crying baby.
Remember how badass Theron was in Mad Max: Fury Road and last year’s Atomic Blonde? The transformation from those movies to Tully showcases how versatile she is as an actress. This is the antithesis of Charlize Theron: Movie Star. At one point, the baby spills a drink on Marlo’s shirt. Fed up, Marlo removes her shirt revealing her post-baby physique.
“Mom, what’s wrong with your body?” says her daughter, Emmy.
But besides the physical transformation, Theron embodies Marlo with both fragility and splashes of humor thanks to Cody’s terrific script. Theron walks a tightrope of completely losing it before landing gracefully from scene to scene.
“No one’s treated my hole for a really long time,” says Marlo to Tully after they discuss treating one’s individual parts to make them whole again.
This is among Theron’s best performances. I wouldn’t be surprised if she receives an Oscar nomination by the end of the year.
Davis is equally great as the mysterious Tully. The moment she appears on screen, Davis elevates the tone with unfiltered charisma and energy. The ambiguity to her character is also essential to the plot.
Ron Livingston plays the husband, Drew, and he acts as the typical husband leaving the wife and kids to go to work. I would have liked to see his character developed a little more, but he does get a wonderful scene at the end with Marlo that is heartwarming.
As the film reaches its conclusion, Tully takes a much darker turn with a shocking twist that is one of the best in recent memory. In fact, the twist essentially recalibrates your entire opinion about the film and its illustration of postpartum depression. Some may have a hard time with the direction it goes.
In the end, Tully is both an emotional roller coaster and a celebration of motherhood. Theron is exceptional, Cody reminds us why she is one of our best screenwriters and Reitman delivers his best film in nearly a decade.
And the final shot is a perfect yet simple encapsulation of what it means to be a parent or significant other. Even for those who can’t relate to it.