Juno, Young Adult, and the newly released Tully are a fascinating trilogy. Each follows a character at a time of transition. Juno, Mavis, and Marlo are all people in stasis, but they each stand at a turning point. Director Jason Reitman discussed that theme with New Times at the premiere of Tully during its opening-night premiere at Miami Film Festival.
"This being my third film with Diablo Cody, it's been a moment to reflect on the continuity and what bonds them, as well as why we're a good match and why we keep wanting to make movies together. And I think the unifying theme between the three is obviously not the pregnancy or having children; it's the decision of, what is the moment when you decide to grow up?" Reitman theorizes.
"Juno first began that conversation: Why do teenage girls grow up so fast, and why do 30-year-old guys refuse to grow up? That was at the heart of that film. And, of course, Young Adult is about a woman in her late 30s who refuses to grow up. And [Tully] is a movie about the way becoming a parent forces you to not simply act mature, but to also treat your younger self like it's a different human being."
Charlize Theron's Marlo, who is struggling after the birth of her latest child, is finally able to make time for herself when a young nanny (Tully, played by Mackenzie Davis) comes into her home. Where many a writer and director would paint people like Marlo as a bad or lazy parent, Cody and Reitman are more interested in exploring beyond the surface.
"One of the things I love about Diablo's writing is that she can write characters who are doing villainous things, but she never classifies them as evil," Reitman explains. "She writes them as really complicated human beings, and my interest is all that gray area."
"Mark [from Juno] is making a movie on a 16-year-old pregnant girl. Mavis is clearly trying to ruin someone's marriage right after they have a child. They're not participating in healthy activity," he laughs. "She never thinks of these people as evil or crazy, though, and Charlize doesn't either."
Marlo is the kind of layered character any actress would be lucky to tackle. She's more than a basic struggling mother, and it's her flaws that make her so interesting and relatable.
"I have this great privilege of being the kind of connective tissue between these two women," Reitman says of Theron and Cody. "I guess, see them as human beings. You've made this mutual agreement of, 'OK, we're exploring our own flaws through these characters; now let's treat them as people and not judge them.'"
Parenthood plays a role in much of Reitman's work — from these films to Men, Women & Children and Labor Day, as well as the TV show Casual. Asked about that recurring theme, he laughs. "I can look at all of these things and go, 'Huh, yeah, a lot of babies in here,' but that's not on purpose; that's not by design. You know, I always wonder if Scorsese is ever like, 'God, I got a real thing for gangsters.' I don't know if I've got a real thing for babies.
"But clearly that is a center point for me in terms of emotional development," he continues. "I suppose it is the most relatable drama that most human beings go through, and that acts as a player to discuss all the other human emotions. At the end of the day, Juno isn't about teen pregnancy — it's just kind of a location that we can use to explore everything that Juno and Bleeker are feeling and what Vanessa and Mark are feeling.
"Tully kind of acts the same way," he adds. "Postpartum depression isn't really a plot. It's a location where we can explore the fear of growing up and the fear of losing a younger self — the fear of just not feeling cool anymore and how we have to, at some point, say goodbye to that."
Tully was the opening-night selection at Miami Film Festival 2018 and opens Friday, May 4, in Miami at AMC Sunset Place 24, Regal Kendall Village Stadium, the Landmark at Merrick Park, Cinépolis Coconut Grove, CMX Brickell City Centre, Regal South Beach Stadium 18, Cinemark Paradise 24, and AMC Aventura 24.