By Mark Saldana
By 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
With Juno, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody tackle the complicated issues surrounding teen pregnancy. With Young Adult, the dynamic filmmaking duo takes on the problem of arrested development during what should be a woman’s first real mature years–her thirties. Reitman and Cody are back with the next level in adult female development and all of the stress and problems that come with it. With Tully, that next level is motherhood and this winning cinematic team have struck gold again with a funny, endearing and sometimes stressful film which puts a realistic and not so glamorous spin on the joys, pains, highs and lows of being a mom.
Charlize Theron stars as Marlo, as stay-at-home mom who just recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Already with two children, Marlo must now juggle her usual responsibilities to her special needs son Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) and her overachieving daughter Sarah (Lia Frankland) with most of the expected work that goes into caring for an infant. While Marlo does have some help from her husband Drew (Ron Livingston), she handles most of the late-night feedings and diaper changes to allow him to be well-rested for his work. This begins to take a heavy toll after a while, though, leaving Marlo exhausted and sleep-deprived. She reluctantly accepts an offer from her brother Craig (Mark Duplass) to hire a night nanny. One such nanny named Tully (Mackenzie Davis) shows up at the house one evening and Marlo’s life will never be the same.
The Cody/Reitman formula wins again with a film that charms and highly amuses with great character development, but also has a serious message behind every crazy thing that happens. The message is a tad on the nose and the execution of it is a little shaky, but Reitman and his cast manage to sell it well with sincerity and by surrounding it with genuine real-life scenarios. Once again, Cody lends a palpable personal touch to her writing with the Marlo character serving as a full-fledged representation of who she is. Also, audiences can expect and enjoy Cody’s signature brand of humor which isn’t quite as sardonic or biting as her writing in Young Adult, but closer to the winsome humor of Juno.
And since Charlize Theron gives a tour-de-force performance in Young Adult, it came as no surprise to me when they cast her in the lead role for this film. Theron shines once again in a more restrained and nuanced role. Because Theron wanted to look like a real, recently pregnant mother and not like the usual glamorized ones in movies, the actress put on some real weight to the look the part. Apparently it took Theron some time to shed the extra pounds that she had gained, but the fact that her look and portrayal of Marlo finally captures the natural effects of pregnancy on most women, makes it all well-worth it.
The film also features great turns by Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass, Elaine Tan, and Gameela Wright. Both Asher Miles Fallica and Lia Frankland deliver exceptional work as Marlo’s older children. In addition to Theron, who, without a doubt, earns her starring role, Mackenzie Davis also makes a name for herself as Tully, a character who shares a wonderful chemistry with Marlo, and has a bright shining aura of her own. The gifted young actress is absolutely unforgettable in this movie and definitely deserves more lead work in the future. She and Charlize Theron work so well together that they genuinely come across as best friends.
And by now it is obviously evident that Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody work so well together that it feels like they were meant to collaborate on several movies. Reitman has made other movies with other writers, but I feel that some of his best work has been with Diablo Cody’s material. Should Cody decide to tackle a story which deals with retirement and the senior years, I would love to see her favorite director return to helm it. I would also love to see Charlize Theron star as the lead, but with a substantial role for Mackenzie Davis again. Reitman, Cody, Theron, and Davis should form a new movie making supergroup and make awesome and entertaining movies until they just simply can’t anymore.