May 09

“Tully” Spoiler: Mom Not Just Stressed Out

In our society, there’s something almost transgressive in speaking up and admitting that motherhood is hard and occasionally unrewarding when everyone is quick to point out what a “blessing” it is. Chris Nashawaty,, reviewing Tully

Tully is that film that strives to be more honest about a role many women cherish, on the one hand, while sometimes silently resenting.

A brief intro by Owen Gleiberman, Variety: “In ‘Tully,’ the third collaboration between director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo CodyCharlize Theron plays Marlo, a New York suburban mom with two kids who’s about to give birth to her third.”

John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter, summarizes the plot:

Marlo and husband Drew (Ron Livingston) already had their hands full. Their daughter is on the cusp of an awkward phase, and their son is ‘quirky’ — a demanding special needs kid whose special needs have yet to be labeled. Marlo’s brother (Mark Duplass), who has made money and is busy living a luxury-product life with his too-perfect wife (Elaine Tan), wants to give them the kind of baby present that says ‘you aren’t up to this’: He offers to hire a ‘night nanny,’ who’ll keep watch over the infant while parents get some rest, only waking Mommy when it’s time to breast-feed.

Drew and Marlo reject the offer, but when Marlo nearly goes postal at her son’s school, she reconsiders. Enter Tully [Mackenzie Davis]…


So, who is Tully (Mackenzie Davis)? What we think throughout most of the movie: She’s the night nanny hired by Marlo (Charlize Theron) after the birth of her and her husband’s third child. What we find out: Tully isn’t real, she’s a projection of Marlo’s younger self—maiden name Tully.

Tully, that is, appears to be the result of postpartum psychosis.

As it’s known that Marlo has had a second-child postpartum depression, the implication is that her untreated depression has deepened and worsened into a delusional state.

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap: “Where ‘Tully’ goes…will be a matter of taste, and while I question some of [writer Diablo] Cody’s third-act ideas, I applaud her and Theron for pulling no punches about the agony of parenting; the act of tending to an infant is handled with some of the grimmest humor this side of ‘Eraserhead.’…Theron gives us a brutally realistic portrait of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

Female critic Inkoo Kang, Slate, who rewatched Tully:

…The second time, I was convinced of the film’s brilliance. Knowing the revelation to come, I found the jokes funnier, the details smarter, the foreshadowing more harrowing, and Theron more impressive—simply the way she holds her head, and how her gaze shifts to reflect Marlo’s moods and wavering sense of control. Under a sloppy haircut, she’s achingly hysterical when Marlo turns her spikiness outward and heartbreakingly frustrated when overwhelmed by the demands of her children. You can see in Theron’s overly caffeinated eyes and slumped back the layers of loneliness and self-loathing that finally burst through, demanding change. Their truth, if taken seriously, could reorganize millions of lives.

Controversy has ensued over the plot twist, as some moms would’ve preferred the ability to know the gist of Marlo’s mental health issues in advance. Their decision whether or not to see it, based on how triggering or upsetting it may feel, could’ve been helped by spoiler-like publicized info (that, as in this case, is normally withheld).

“The resulting controversy may do what the film does not: Educate the public about maternal mental health,” concludes Heather Marcoux, Motherly.

Dec 21

“Young Adult”: Emotionally Stunted Alcoholic Narcissist

Over the weekend I saw the new movie Young Adult, a comedy/drama starring Charlize Theron, and featuring the same combo of writer and director, Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman, behind the success of Juno (2007).

Since seeing it, I read an article by Dan Persons, film journalist, and liked what he had to say regarding the release of this film during the holiday season: “Bless screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman their twisted, little hearts. In a season rife with people bettering themselves through moody introspection, they introduce us to Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), author of young adult novels and a woman who looks within and comes away with all the wrong lessons.”

His point? “Young Adult isn’t season-specific, but it does serve as a healthy counterbalance to all that holiday growth and belonging…”

Theron’s character Mavis, as described by critic Christy Lemire (, is “an anti-heroine who makes no apologies for her deplorable behavior.” In addition, she’s depressed and knocks back hard liquor like there’s no tomorrow—and it clearly isn’t doing her any favors. And, with an unhealthy megadose of narcissism, her main quest in life, at the age of 37, is to bulldoze her way back into the arms of her old high school boyfriend—who’s now happily married with a newborn.

In the end, although very impressed with Theron’s acting, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the overall story. Yes, it had held my interest. But…

A few hours later, though, it caught up to me, and I found myself thinking more about the meaning and impact of Young Adult. As Robert Levin, The Atlantic, concludes: “It trades in discomfort and unease, not catharsis. That’s an achievement worthy of admiration, if you can endure it.”

And Roger Eberts sentiments also come close to my own feelings: “As I absorbed it, I realized what a fearless character study it is. That sometimes it’s funny doesn’t hurt.”

I would add, though, that the character is so damaged that some of those so-called funny moments—the ones that produced laughter from the people around us while my partner and I looked at each other questioningly—also do hurt.