On this episode of Fresh Films, the guys channel their inner forty-year-old mom by watching the latest Jason Reitman film and reflecting on how the title character is really just a hipster Mary Poppins.
[Hamilton Leithauser + Rostram - “The Bride’s Dad]
Marco: What was Mark Duplass’ job in this film?
Elliot: He definitely had a job because he was the rich brother. But they never really specify what it was. All they show us is the fact that he lives in a giant house and he can build a Tiki bar in his basement and he can hire night nannies and full time live-in nannies for his kids and…
Marco: ...To rant about preservatives.
Elliot: And he hates Ron Livingston, or he thinks Ron Livingston hates him.
Marco: It’s interesting that Ron Livingston and Mark Duplass hate each other so much, because if there wasn’t a beard on Mark Duplass’ face, I couldn’t tell them apart.
Elliot: C’mon, Ron Livingston is the star of Office Space, and Mark Duplass is the other Duplass brother, the one that’s not on Transparent.
Marco: So this is Fresh Films, we’re a podcast devoted to reviewing new films that have come out in Evanston. I’m Marco Cartolano.
Elliot: And I’m Elliot Kronsberg. So Tully is basically about a forty-something year old mother, played by Charlize Theron. She already has two kids, and she’s pregnant with a third and her brother, as a baby gift offers to pay for a night nanny, who basically comes late at night and takes care of the baby so that the parents can sleep.
Marco: She doesn’t just take care of the baby, she takes care of her.
Elliot: Yeah, she takes care of Charlize Theron’s character also. She cleans up the house and helps deal with Charlize’ marital problems. It’s kind of like a Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee, but instead of dealing with children, she’s just dealing with Charlize Theron.
Marco: She’s like a hipster Mary Poppins.
Elliot: The best kind of Mary Poppins, and Tully, the eponymous character of the film is played by Mackenzie Davis who you may know from Halt and Catch Fire, “San Junipero,” Blade Runner 2049, The Martian, I could go on and on. I’m a big Mackenzie Davis fan. Because she does have this sort of spacy, hipster vibe but then she can get shit done.
Marco: So Theron is in a pretty, middle to lower-middle class situation. Her husband is in some indescribable job…
Elliot: He’s got this weird, low paying job where he has to travel all the time. Which, when you got two kids and another one on the way, it’s not the most ideal situation.
Marco: And one of the kids has an ambiguous autism-like disorder that she has to deal with as well. It’s getting him in trouble in school and it takes a lot of time to take care of him, and her brother is super successful, has a nicer house and car and everything. There’s a lot of jealousy there because of that economic difference, and that’s what makes her more resistant to take on the night nanny at first. But then she relents after events make life harder and she realizes that she needs the help, and Mackenzie Davis comes in and she’s quirky, smart, knows all this random trivia, and is really helpful. Reminds Charlize Theron a lot about the time when she was younger. So this film is also directed by Jason Reitman, director of Juno, of Up in the Air, of...
Elliot: ...Thank You for Smoking, Labor Day, Men, Women & Children, and Young Adult. So this film reunites him from Charlize Theron and Diablo Cody. This is his third time working with the writer Diablo Cody, and I think as time passes, their films together almost follow this weird timeline. You’ve got something about motherhood as a teen, Juno. And then you’ve got sort of like a resistance to grow up, Young Adult. And then finally, you have a combination of both of these things where you’ve got a mother and she’s looking back and kind of unhappy and uncomfortable in what she’s become.
Marco: Until, of course, Tully comes along and helps her. So, I didn’t realize this film would have some pretty solid technical filmmaking on display actually. It’s a relatively small film but there’s still scenes that feel appropriately claustrophobic when its tense. There’s some pretty imagery, this sort of mermaid imagery that comes about a few times. I wasn’t expecting there to be that level of filmmaking on display. Particularly because I remember Juno as kind of this small, indiesh thing that was more famous for its quirkiness than for the filmmaking.
Elliot: I think it’s interesting that this film does feel so different from his earlier films because, I mean, it’s the same people. It’s Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody. Same cinematographer that shot Juno and Young Adult and Up in the Air. His name is Eric Steelberg, and that’s basically what he’s known for, Jason Reitman films. So I think it maybe shows a growth in the filmmakers. It’s the same people just doing a film about a very different period in someone’s life.
Marco: But it’s also just sharpened in a lot of good ways. The writing is funny and realistic and intense in a lot of places. Charlize Theron feels like a lot more weathered and serious than Reitman’s previous protagonists.
Elliot: I would definitely agree with you that Marlo, that’s Charlize Theron’s character, does feel like a real person, and that kind of makes the character of Tully more quirky and amazing because she just comes out of nowhere and she seems to be so good at being a night nanny. But then she’s also this free-spirited twenty-six-year-old who’s dealing with her roommate and all the guys she’s seeing an I just really enjoy the character of Tully because she’s kind of very earnest, and I usually hate earnestness in film, but I think that if you’ve got a really cynical main character, it works when you’ve got this foil, this character foil. And the dynamic between Marlo and Tully, I think, is just really strong in this film.
Marco: It’s not just like “Here is Tully saying all this inspirational stuff, Marlo gets it all and becomes uncynical and everything.” I think it’s more of a two-way street than you think from a lot of these sort of nanny comes in to save people’s lives sorts of films. Marlo actually does make points and Tully has to listen to some of the stuff Marlo says too.
Elliot: And I thought the chemistry was very strong between Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis. Even though they’re not the same age and their characters are from two different stages in their lives, they play very well off each other and I feel like their conversation, while it is Diablo Cody kind of quirky, I think it’s pretty real.
Marco: It feels a lot more realistic then the way that everyone would talk to Juno about her teenage pregnancy. It was kind of a very light film for that topic I guess. I don’t know. And this doesn’t feel like that. You want to talk about a bit more about the ending to this film?
Elliot: Sure. I mean, just to be honest, there is a twistin the relationship between Marlo and Tully, but it does end up with Marlo in the hospital and everyone kind of having to reckon with going back to reality after Tully leaves, because everything seemed to be going so well with Tully and then Tully says she has to leave and it kind of drives Marlo off the deep end, because she’s having such a great time while Tully was in her life and she’s got to go back to reality and being the only mom in this family, and I think it does kind of end with the idea that maybe things will get better, that she’s kind of got a deeper understanding of herself and her roles as mother by the end of the film.
Marco: I’ll say that the twist that happens in this film isn’t my favorite type of twist. For this film, it’s executed as well as the sort of twist could be executed because it feels very well built up to and there’s a lot of easter eggs about stuff too.
Elliot: That’s what I really love, I kind of saw the twist coming at certain points, but then looking back on the whole film, everything just kind of lines up and I think that Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman, even if it’s not the best kind of twist, I think that they executed very well and I really liked the movie for it.
[Rufus Wainwright - “Tiergarten”]
Marco: So let’s go on now to our final thoughts. I’ll go first. Tully is a very charming film. It’s a very realistic look at aging and motherhood and it’s handled with more depth, humor and realism than I think a lot of Jason Reitman’s other works have in the past. I think that he’s grown as a director. I think Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis do a great job. Again, the twist isn’t my favorite sort of way to resolve film plots in general. I like it more so in this than in other films, but still it is what it is. I really do recommend this film because it is a small film and it’s the sort of film that we kind of need to support more. It can’t just be a bunch of tent poles, that would be bad for film. Elliot?
Elliot: I really loved this film and I think that Mackenzie Davis and Charlize Theron are consistently great in their films and together it’s such a strong dynamic, and even the smaller roles, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass, I think they do quite a good job. It’s often a very funny movie and even the drama leads to these little moments of humor. Reitman just fills the film with these little moments of realistic defeat, like when Charlize Theron’s character is pumping breast milk and she forgets to close the bag and it spills all over the counter, or she’s had a tough day with the kids and the baby and her husband comes in and is like, “Oh, frozen pizza for dinner.” Because those are real things. Sometimes, you don’t want to cook a whole meal. I know as a college student frozen pizza is as fancy as it really gets. So I very much recommend this film, especially if you like Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody’s other work. Even if you’re not so keen on Jason Reitman after his last couple of films that might not have been as good. If you’re a big fan of the Juno, Up in the Air era Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody I would definitely check it out and, I mean if you’re a person you should see this film. So this has been Fresh Films, from NBN audio. You can find us in the audio section at northbynorthwestern.com. If you liked this podcast you can subscribe online. You get so much great content. I’m Elliot Kronsberg.
Marco: I’m Marco Cartolano.
Elliot: See ya.
Marco: Wouldn’t want to be ya.
[Velvet Underground - “Ride into the Sun” (Session Outtake)]