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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tully is a dark comedy starring Charlize Theron about the "supermom" illusion that casts modern mothers up against impossible standards. Expect frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "retarded," etc.), nonsexual nudity (breastfeeding), one non-graphic sex scene that involves role-playing a man's fantasy, more graphic glimpses of people having sex on TV, and frank discussions between Marlo and Tully about their sexual histories. Adults drink (in one scene to excess), and a woman drives while under the influence and ends up in a car accident. The movie offers plenty of messages and issues to discuss with older teens about feminism, motherhood, work-life balance, and more; there are also clear themes of compassion and empathy. Due to the subject matter, it could be difficult viewing for women who've suffered from any form of postpartum depression. The film marks director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody's third collaboration, after Juno and Young Adult.
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What's the story?
TULLY, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody's third dark comedy together, stars Charlize Theron as Marlo, a heavily pregnant mother of two juggling family life with her husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), in New York State. During a visit to Marlo's far wealthier brother Craig's (Mark Duplass) house for dinner, Craig announces that, for their baby gift, he and his wife would like to hire a night nurse so that Marlo, who experienced postpartum depression after her previous birth, can get some rest. Marlo initially nixes the idea. But after the baby is born, the day-to-day grind of feeding, changing, cleaning up, cooking, and dealing with her two older kids -- the younger of which has unspecified behavioral and anxiety issues -- leaves her utterly exhausted. So Marlo calls the night nurse, and, one night, young Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a charismatic and calming 20-something, shows up and works her magic. Marlo is completely re-energized by Tully's help, and soon the two women begin to bond in a life-changing way.
Is it any good?
Reitman and Cody's third film together is far more charming and honest than their first two movies; it shines a spotlight on how exhausting and isolating motherhood can sometimes be. Studies have shown that, even in double-income families, mothers do the lion's share of the work at home, a percentage that must be even higher right after a new baby joins the family, as is the case for Marlo and Drew. Livingston does a fine job portraying Drew, a sweet but slightly clueless guy who ends each night decompressing by putting on his headphones and playing a first-peron shooter video game. And Theron is painfully believable as a mom of three in survival mode, struggling under the weight of a child with special needs, an infant, and a husband who's great with the kids but not exactly pulling his weight. Enter the vibrant, zen Tully, and it's obvious why Marlo begins to rely on her for the co-parenting.
Davis is wonderful; she's a fabulous, evocative actor. The film is at its best when she and Theron are on screen together, passing the baby back and forth, having superficial -- and later, deep -- conversations, and eventually heading out on a somewhat ill-fated girls' night out. There's something magical about Tully, and some viewers may figure out just why that is earlier than others (no spoilers here!). Even though you might get the uncomfortable sense that Tully's overall message is that no mother can be truly happy without paid help, just wait. By the end, there's far more to the story, resulting in a moving exploration of how trying modern-day motherhood can be for many women.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Tully's messages regarding motherhood and the expectations that modern moms face. Do you think mothers face more criticism, guilt, and depression than fathers? If so, why? How are gender divisions of labor typically handled?
Is the movie making a statement about what makes a "good" or "bad" mother? Do you agree? Can you think of other movies about moms? How does this one compare?
The movie touches on class-based issues. What does Craig mean when he says that night nurses/nannies are a thing that "all" of his friends do. Why does he say he understands it might be a "bougie" thing to do, but it will still help Marlo postpartum? How can money/lack thereof affect sibling and other relationships?
- In theaters: May 4, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: July 31, 2018
- Cast: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass
- Director: Jason Reitman
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Comedy
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some sexuality/nudity
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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