The Two Sentences Diablo Cody Used To Pitch Tully

Tully Mackenzie Davis And Charlize Theron

Note: We're about to get into major spoilers for Jason Reitman's new film Tully. If you haven't seen the flick, yet, please check out one of our other lovely articles.

Tully isn't the movie that I expected before plunking my butt down on a comfy movie seat chair and checking it out. I knew it was a movie where Charlize Theron had gained weight after having three children, and was dealing with depression after popping out her third child. Ultimately, Tully is about a mother who is sacrificing everything to take care of her children and give her husband free time, plus work a full-time job on top of the other things she is responsible for. It is a role that would exhaust anyone, and in the character of Marlo's case, it takes a mental toll. The twist that Diablo Cody wrote into the story, that Marlo is saved when the younger version of herself, Tully, starts popping up to make her life easier, was something the writer foresaw at the very beginning, and she actually pitched the idea to director Jason Reitman in two simple sentences. The director revealed the two sentences in a recent interview, noting,

The two sentences were, 'I want to write a screenplay about a mother of three suffering from postpartum depression. And a younger version of herself comes to save her.' And I was like, that's it. We've made a movie about the moment in which your younger self starts to feel like a different human being and you have to say goodbye to that human being. And what if they came to visit you at the moment where you felt the most lost, the most alone, where you were supposed to be living this blessing, except you're confused and you're scared. And they let you know it's going to be okay and you finally say goodbye.

This point of view that Jason Reitman is describing is pretty unexpected in Tully. At the beginning of the movie we see Marlo and her husband, Drew (played by Ron Livingston), hint at former bouts with postpartum depression just as their third kid is about to arrive. Marlo's wealthy brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), offers a night nanny to help, and for most of the movie, it seems as if Marlo takes him up on the offer. Tully (Mackenzie Davis) shows up, she helps Marlo to clean the house and get the laundry done; she stays up with the baby and even makes cupcakes. One night, she reveals she's quitting while she and Marlo take a brief jaunt into the city. Marlo is devastated and drunk-ish; she gets in a car accident on the way home. As for the twist? Tully never existed. Tully was Marlo's maiden name. The person Marlo was spending time with was a hallucination of her younger self. Marlo was doing the cooking and cleaning and cupcake baking, all while suffering from mentally exhausting depression. (Also shoutout to nineties fashion being trendy again or this twist would probably have been a lot more noticeable early on.)

Jason Reitman went on in his interview with Uproxx to explain that Tully is sort of like his version of The Sixth Sense, and while he was kidding around, the comparison is kind of apt. Unlike M. Night Shyamalan, twist endings are not his and Diablo Cody's forte, and the end of this movie is an outside-the-box ending and effective. It also should have shock value for most viewers, although some hints are peppered throughout the film.

It's a place a lot of other mothers have been in, although I'm not sure how many of them hallucinate a night nanny to help and I'd assume that percentage is low. Still, the story is effective and affecting, from the moment we see an already-exhausted Marlo push out a baby -- her third baby---to moments where her kids tell her her body looks terrible. The people in her life aren't cutting her a break, not her brother, who wants her to be fun like she used to be her, her husband, who literally does nothing to help out, and even the school, who has found her son too challenging. Watching this movie was exhausting; I can't imagine living it.

Diablo Cody has collaborated with Jason Reitman on two other movies, Young Adult and Juno. This time around, it only took two sentences for Reitman to get excited about the story. If you are still reading this and haven't seen the movie yet, why did you spoil yourself?! Go see it, anyway. To take a look at what other movies are coming up, check out our full schedule.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.