From the first time I saw the trailer for this movie, I had my suspicions that it wouldn’t work for me. I decided to go ahead and give it a shot anyways, largely due to the respect I have for director Jason Reitman’s past works like Thank You for Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air. Those are all films I really enjoyed, but I haven’t seen anything from him since then. Charlize Theron starring in one of his movies also had me intrigued, but judging from the trailer, I just wasn’t sure this was going to be for me.
What deterred me from the movie was the pale and unforgiving picture it painted of motherhood. It seemed unrelenting in making the viewer quiver at the thought of being a mother, featuring endless scenarios of Theron looking exhausted, beat down and deprived of any happiness whatsoever. I suppose the trailer was successful in setting out to preview the film, because this is exactly the movie I was presented with.
The movie begins with, guess what, a montage of Theron struggling with the tribulations of motherhood. We get to see her “troubled” son and how she manages him, along with her seemingly monotonous marriage with Drew, played by Ron Livingston in a role very akin to his entire career. The way in which these trials of motherhood are shown on screen to be such a grueling, debilitating and unrewarding exercise really made me feel uneasy. Sure, mothers out there will say, “Yes! That’s what I’m going through! That’s just what it’s like!” I would argue there has to be more to being a mother than what this movie would have us believe. There is a sense of rewarding and loving emotion that is lost in this repulsive madness that the film so unrelentingly presents, and I found it to be distasteful.
Enter Mackenzie Davis’ character, the night nanny Theron’s Marlo hires per her brother’s (played by Mark Duplass) recommendation. This is Tully, and she enters the story as an angel of youth and kindness. She takes care of everything for Marlo around the house, going above and beyond to care for the kids and household chores. Davis is a radiant actress, and having recently watched San Junipero, I was immediately drawn into her presence on screen. The relationship between her and Theron’s character grows to be pretty interesting and did a fair job of holding my attention for the remainder of the film.
This is a surprisingly difficult film to talk about without delving into spoilers, so I’d like to just round out some more overall thoughts on the movie. I enjoyed Livingston and Duplass playing pretty blah middle aged men. I don’t think the film was making any statement about them as failures or neglectful men or anything like that, but more so just as regular guys who might not be keen to what their female counterpart is dealing with on a daily basis. This aspect of the story was handled pretty well and didn’t feel like they were being made out to be complete doormats of husbands. As for Theron herself, she put on an admirable performance, but it was hard for me to sympathize with her character because it all just felt so pitiful. To be short, I am not fond of this film, and I would not recommend it to anyone. I most enjoyed the supporting turns from Davis, Livingston and Duplass, and I would recommend checking out earlier works of Reitman, whose themes are much more interesting and flat out enjoyable.