‘Tully’s’ Charlize Theron, Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody on Normalizing the Dark Side of Parenting

People are quick to paint parenthood as a paradise, said “Tully” director Jason Reitman. But fewer people discuss the utter fear and exhaustion that accompany caring for living, breathing children.

“It’s scary to be a first-time parent,” Reitman told Variety on the red carpet of the film’s Los Angeles premiere on Wednesday. “You’re not supposed to talk about that. It’s supposed to be a blessing, but the truth is, you always feel like you didn’t get the guidebook. You never know if you’re doing the right thing.”

Tully” follows Charlize Theron’s Marlo, a mother of three who struggles to stay afloat while catering to her young children, until Mackenzie Davis Tully swoops in to save the day as Marlo’s new nanny. For Theron, who had just welcomed her second child before production began, the script laden with motherly misadventures and woes was all too real.

“I think for all of us, it just felt very familiar,” Theron told Variety. “It feels like something we all were either in or had just experienced, and we could really emotionally tap into that. … I want to be honest and raw enough to say how messy it is to raise kids.”

The collaborative process Theron underwent with Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, with whom she had worked previously on “Young Adult,” helped the actress understand the universal plight of parents.

“Making this film has made me not feel alone,” Theron said. “Just even with sharing the script — that process where I read the script, and I knew Diablo wrote this because she felt it — like, okay at least there’s one other person.”

“Tully” marks the third film collaboration between Cody and Reitman — “Welcome to the trimester,” Reitman joked ahead of the screening. Their first project together was “Juno,” a movie about a young soon-to-be mother that Diablo wrote prior to her first pregnancy. Three children later, Cody said she has done it all, from resorting to frozen pizza dinners to accidentally dropping an iPhone on a baby and losing her temper in parking lots.

“I just remember after I had my third child, I felt completely just exhausted and overwhelmed and anxious and unworthy in a lot of ways,” Cody said. “I still don’t always feel like I’m worthy of my kids because I am, in many ways, still a selfish and immature person. So that’s what this movie was about: grappling with the responsibilities you have versus your own weaknesses as a person. There are a lot of parents in the world, and the vast majority of them are not perfect people.”

“Tully” hits theaters on May 4.

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