Making this film made me not feel alone. The honesty of the conversation that this movie starts is one that you just can’t deny.
Director Jason Reitman’s TULLY is the kind of film that engages with its audience in brilliant ways, dealing only in universal truths and genuine, heartfelt honesty. For those who are mothers, it’s the cinematic anthem they’ve long been awaiting, showing the hardships (and pleasures) motherhood brings. What Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody have brought to the screen speaks to humanity and empathy – and should spark a provocative conversation.
In the dramedy, Charlize Theron plays “Marlo,” an utterly exhausted, drained and harried mother of three. Marlo’s concerned wealthy brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), has noticed a massive shift in his sister’s personality and has gifted her with something special – a bright, bubbly night nurse, Tully (Mackenzie Davis). Though she’s hesitant at first, Marlo soon accepts the free-spirited nanny’s help.
At the film’s recent Los Angeles press conference, Reitman stated that the film’s humor and heart was really set by Cody’s script.
That’s where the DNA of this film is – and that’s how Diablo’s always written. She’s found things that could easily be considered tragic or dramatic. I think people start to understand, “Oh this is going to be a funny film,” despite what we’re talking about. That’s the thrill of reading her material, is that it’s right there on the page – the drama and the humor are intertwined.
TULLY’s truthfulness and authenticity are what makes it connect most with audiences – those who have children and those who don’t. There surprisingly weren’t any moments when the filmmakers felt they needed to hold back in tracking Marlo’s reality, which can be sobering for those who don’t have children. Theron said,
Jason doesn’t function in that gear.
Reitman quickly added,
By the way, no one at this table does. That’s what the exciting thing about this group of actors – their true understanding of what’s happening on the page. I’ve worked with actors who are very talented, but there is a supreme understanding of humor in the drama and what’s behind everything that’s happening here. Because of that, they’re all interested in how to make moments feel more real. No matter what it is, no matter how self-effacing it is. I don’t think any of us ever had a conversation about, “We should really hold back here.”
Theron, who also served as a producer on the film, later added,
We didn’t water this down. We never came from an angle to make this more appetizing for moms out there, or families out there, or tried to say something that felt better about motherhood. We really just went for the truth and we all responded to that. We just felt like other people would respond to that as well.
Davis – the only member of the cast without a child – mentioned that coming face to face with Marlo’s struggles in no way scared her away from momdom.
No. I’m all in.
In our current culture where admitting to needing help, or having working help, could be seen as a weakness, Theron hopes that TULLY will shift that conversation into the right place.
I think this movie will maybe start that conversation a little bit more, because when we talk about help it feels so cold. But help can be something that’s really warm and it doesn’t have to feel like this isolated thing that you’re bringing in from the outside to help you. The more you think about it, it’s like just becoming part of raising a child. It makes you realize the value in that.
Making this film brought Theron to the belief that the comforting message it sends will make parents feel less alone.
I know that making this film made me not feel alone. The honesty of the conversation that this movie starts is one that you just can’t deny. When you live and breathe in that place, then you realize you’re not alone. I know for myself as a parent, there have been days where I really needed that. I think every parent will tell you that.
People see this movie and there’s a lot of moments where they see themselves and feel like that has never been – they have never had that opportunity to see that part of being a parent. When you can do something that makes people feel on the level that’s raw and honest and undeniably truthful – that’s always a great place to be in.
TULLY opens on May 4.