Director: Jason Reitman.
Cast: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass, Asher Miles, Lia Frankland, Elaine Tan.
|Mommy couldn't daytime drink like she used to.|
The brutal realities of motherhood are thrown into sharp relief in this at-times-bleak dramedy, which seems to complete "a womanhood trilogy" of sorts from the writer-director combo of Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman. While this one doesn't wear its humour on its sleeve as much as Juno or Young Adult, it still has touches of laughs amid the true-to-life horribleness and the seriously bizarre edge to its plot.
But the real reason to watch this is Theron, who pulls out yet another remarkable performance that's up there with her best.
She plays Marlo, a married mother-of-two who is heavily pregnant with her unplanned third baby. When the third child arrives, Marlo quickly finds herself struggling to cope until the arrival of a "night nanny" named Tully (Davis).
Tully is a modern-day Mary Poppins who not only takes care of the newborn through the night, but also tidies the house, cooks cupcakes, and lets Marlo get her life back in order. But not everything is as it seems.
Theron is a marvel in this, whether it be when she's having a full-blown meltdown, navigating the niceties while trying to talk about her "quirky" but difficult son, dropping jokes at the dinner table, or singing karaoke with her daughter. It's a masterful performance that ticks every box. Even without bringing the whole weight-gain-acting-commitment thing into it, Theron should totally be in awards discussions when all that stuff rolls around.
The combination of her and Davis is a great one. The excellence of Davis' turn becomes increasingly evident as the film rolls on into strange new places and we realise the depths and facets of Tully. The way she bounces off Theron also gets better and better as their characters' connection grows.
Credit too to the often under-rated Livingston as Marlo's husband Drew, who is given just enough development so as not to be a mere plot device or story necessity (and gets a nice dramatic moment towards the end to cap it off).
The film's central conceit - which I'm trying very very hard not to spoil, in case you hadn't noticed - will be make or break for many people. It's either going to take the film to the next level for you, or turn you off it, and getting to a point where it all makes sense requires a little bit of patience and suspension of disbelief. But beyond its mysteries, the film has fascinating and important things to say about womanhood and motherhood. What is the cost of "having it all" as a mother/wife/woman? Where is the line between those three "roles"? Is "having it all" achievable? Are the sacrifices worthwhile? What if can't be all those things? What if you reach a point in your life and don't know how or why you got where you are?
Cody's script is wondering about all these things, and finds a fascinating way to look at it. It's humourous touches are welcome, it has a genuine heart to it all, but it's also smart and thoughtful. As for Reitman, this is a welcome return to form after the poorly received Labor Day and the terrible Men, Women & Children. It's more in line with his acclaimed first four films, and is perhaps most like the midlife/quarterlife crisis musings of Up In The Air and Young Adult.
All in all, it's clever yet sincere, and balances it light and shade pretty well. Just don't see it if you're thinking about having kids.