In 'Tully,' a rare close-up of postnatal motherhood

Charlize Theron in

Charlize Theron in"Young Adult

"Do I have a kid or a f***ing ukulele?" she snaps when a teacher describes her problem son as "quirky" - a line that might as well double as Cody's critique of the reductive commentary surrounding Juno. But like "Poppins", "Tully" is a fantasy of parenthood - a homely fairy tale about a haggard mother who's feeling her younger, former self slip away.

In "Juno", it's navigating an unplanned teen pregnancy. And she did her own makeup to play disheveled Mavis in her original pairing with Reitman and Cody, the caustic Young Adult.

"The only thing that comforted me at this time in my life was writing this weird, intense, nearly stream-of-consciousness indie script, which became Tully, " she said.

"Tully" shares the cinematic sensibility honed by Reitman and Cody in their previous collaborations, combining deadpan dialogue with heartfelt performances to tell stories of strong-willed women caught between journeys of personal growth and the introduction of a new life.

Cody, whose real name is Brook Busey-Maurio, came to notoriety during the blog craze of the early 2000s. But her life is punishing. Before long, Marlo's attitude is brighter and her once kid-ravaged home is neat as a pin all thanks to Tully's industrious nighttime ministrations, dispensed with sunny wisdom.

Since then, Cody has become a fixture in Hollywood. "And she has sort of a confidant and a friend in a world where she is one particular type of role".

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In today's market most dramas, outside of prestige year-end releases for Oscar consideration, are being told as cable limited series or on streaming, leaving massive superhero blockbusters to clog up the movie theaters. The scene is made up of fast, blurring cuts as Director Ivan Reitman emphasizes the frenzied, exhaustive preparation a 40ish mother of three youngsters goes through each weekday morning. All three have done tremendous work in the past, and this stands right up there with the best of it. The slightest turn of the dial and this would be a horror movie.

And that helped you tap into Marlo's emotional state.

Charlize Theron, never better, plays Marlo, an expectant mother of two young children who, after her second child (Asher Miles Fallica) is kicked out of school because the staff is unable to accommodate what administrators refer to as the youngster's "quirks", decides to hire a night nanny to help care for her newborn. She's overwhelmed from making all the meals, dropping off and picking up from school, and also having a special needs child.

When a night nanny, Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a gift from her wealthy brother (Mark Duplass) appears as a vision at her front frosted-glass door, Marlo rejects her. When Marlo's husband drives her to the hospital to give birth, Reitman places the camera in the backseat; we mostly see the rain sloshing across the windshield on what is meant to be a joyful occasion. But things begin to unravel in the third act, which leads to an incredible revelation. Cody said that was intentional, a reaction to her experience raising children in Los Angeles, where it's often hard to get a diagnosis from a school or a psychologist about the behaviors of your unique child. "I'm here to take care of you", she says. "I was kind of under a lot of professional pressure at the time, too". I was obviously sleep deprived. "It was a therapeutic exercise". "You can't just outsource your life", she says. But it will give parents in the audience major PTSD. Soon Margo, who'd lost all confidence in herself, starts cooking again, and Drew is happy to see the kids aren't eating frozen pizza for dinner anymore.

Tully is now playing in US theaters nationwide.

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