November 24, 2018


In the recent flick, "Tully," a mother of two young children is very pregnant with her third. Charlize Theron plays Marlo, burnt-out and easily-unhinged Mom. Not only are there the physical discomforts to deal with and a rather MIA husband--her six year old seems to be on the autism spectrum but is undiagnosed, and the principal of his school is gently attempting to expel him--or could it be he just takes after his free-spirited Mom?

For a middle-class matron, Mom is crass, in more ways than one.* (If I weren't a nun I would suggest doing shots every time you hear her favorite word: a-hole.) We feel sorry for her, but also not. There is something so worn-out and depressing about this story. In order to get some energy going for the plot, Mom uses spicy language and has continual angry outbursts. We have seen this trite tripe before: Adults Disillusioned By Marriage and Family Life (ADBMAFL). They pine for their younger, wilder selves (Marlo also had female lovers before tying the knot). I also don't buy Theron's portrayal. She just seemed like a complacent, veteran, "arrived" actress skating through a role (think Nicholas Cage).

There are lots of jolting, on-the-nose Stock Feminist Catchphrases plopped in here and there just in case we're too enamoured of the motherhood thing.

Against her protestations, Marlo's brother hires a night nanny named "Tully" for her, who turns out to be the best thing since sliced bread. Marlo gets some serious sleep and begins to come back to life, back to herself and feel refreshed and positive. Tully loves babies and wears a sexy crop top (remember, Marlo is "bisexual") while everyone else is bundled up indoors. Tully is a fairy godmother who is literary, sexy, fun, intelligent, knows science, biology (esp. baby biology); she's caring, sensitive, tough, funny, kind, etc., etc. She's too good to be true, but at her wisest, she tells Marlo that she's here to take care of Mom more than the baby, and she helps Mom fall in love with her own progeny whom Marlo can only experience as a burden right now.

SPOILER ALERT: The night nanny is, in part, a figment of Marlo's imagination, a kind of shadow self. If you keep this in mind, certain scenes won't be shocking at all. We are introduced to this fact, or rather, this fact is confirmed at the end in such a subtle manner that the viewer could easily miss it and just wind up confused.

My positive takeaway of this earthy film (besides some good and true lines) is that being pregnant can be a real hardship in various ways, and, newsflash: Moms (and Dads) of infants and small children need help! Lots of help! In this day and age of the nuclear family, where are grandparents and aunties and extended family that can lend a hand, where a child is still among relatives and being raised by their own kin? I just met a young married Mom who has had multiple miscarriages, traumatic births and severe post-partum depression. She made me think instantly of this film.

In the end, "Tully" is a bit of a stinker. If it's supposed to be "honest" and "heartwarming," it really didn't make its case very well. Marlo is so condescending toward her husband that there's no way they can really be or become "one." She only married him because he's boring and safe and she finally decided that's the life she wanted, so she hand-picked him, but he's not in on the joke. At the beginning of the film, we think that Dad might be a horrible person, but then we realize that their relationship is mundane, but supportive, comfortable, caring. However, we get the distinct impression that only girls can really understand other girls, and same-sex romantic relationships are just soooooo much more exciting and compatible!

Oh, and OF COURSE, porn is just a neutral fact of life. OF COURSE Both husband and wife use porn (separately). OF COURSE.

This is a movie I kind of wish I hadn't seen. Not because I'll be "haunted" by its banal and (a few) crude images, but because it was one of those "waste of my precious time" movies. It didn't make me care about the characters or make me believe that suddenly, with the wave of a magic wand, it would all work out in the end. This inchoate attempt at chronicling the travails of motherhood had potential and promise but falls flat. DEFINITELY ONE TO SKIP.

*So crass, in fact, that Hollywood slips in a completely unnecessary comment about masturbation, spoken by Mom to her young son. Seriously??? It's quite isolated as far as the rest of the film is concerned, but it once again showcases the ever-present pedo cesspool side of Tinseltown that doesn't even care if we "catch it."

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