Diablo Cody, Jason Reitman and Charlize Theron sound like an unbeatable team of irreverence and straight-shooting. The trailer for Tully similarly manages to cull the smartest dialogue and best reaction shots - so what could go wrong?
Only everything. In a movie about an over-burdened mother of a bright 8 year old, a problematic 5 year old and a newborn, nothing rings true. Never have you seen an infant diapered so many times, as if a child just out of a place where she was surrounded by amniotic fluid would be crying primarily because of some localized wetness. Never have you seen a seasoned mother change a screaming baby’s diaper before stopping the horrendous crying. Never have you seen the mother of an autistic child seat him behind the driver’s seat so he could continually kick it - what about switching him the second time this happened to the seat nearby?
We see Chalize Theron pumping her milk but wonder why she’s not using that in the middle of the night when she has a night nanny? What else is she saving it for? Where are the words autistic , hyperactive, attention deficit disorder, and why is quirky the omnipresent substitute? Why is the term post-partum depression never mentioned, never anticipated and barely treated? Why is the advent of a third child in eight years treated as if it were a national disaster?
Tully suffers from the same exaggerated reaction as the MeToo and TimesUp movements. It assumes that the very natural act of motherhood is fraught with intense and neurotic trauma - that it is an impossible task for today’s mothers who lack sufficient back-up from their clueless male partners even when the mother is not working outside the home. For those of us who have been there and done that, this rings hollow and mainly theatrical. Marlo, played by Ms. Theron is a stay-at home mom with two children in school and one baby at home. Hello? Wouldn’t that be a piece of cake for the majority of America’s working mothers? Is there a woman in America who hasn’t occasionally used a pacifier?
I can’t talk about the end of this film without revealing spoilers so I will only say that contrary to Joe Morgenstern (WSJ 5/4) who found “the revelations so powerful metaphorically as to leave a haunting afterglow,” I found them shallow, confused and unjustified. More dispiriting is the fact that the screenwriter of a movie as good as Juno would turn out to be too lazy to insist on working them out before demanding that we do that ourselves.
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