Movies haven’t always been super-kind to the child support profession. If nannies, au pairs and babysitters aren’t murderous, husband-stealing sociopaths they’re comedically reluctant, only in that position because of some other circumstance. The message to women almost seems to be that needing a bit of help not only is a character flaw in and of itself but one that could put your children, marriage and home in danger.
The new movie Tully seems to take a slightly different tack, presenting a more realistic portrait of motherhood. The movie reunites director Jason Reitman, writer Diablo Cody and star Charlize Theron, who plays Marlo, a mother of three whose brother hires her some help to deal with the overwhelming reality of life. That help comes in the form of Tully (Mackenzie Davis), who offers more than just relief from constantly being the only one on call with the kids. The two women bond and have lessons and insights to share with each other about life.
The first and only poster shows Marlo looking like a harried mom who’s been good-natured enough to indulge her kids. Her face, shown in close-up, is covered in stickers that have been slapped on her by those kids, one of which on her cheek is the title. The credentials of those involved in making the film are mentioned while the copy tells us we’ll “See how the mother half lives.”
The first trailer immediately lays out the strongest value proposition, that it comes from the team that brought you Juno and Young Adult. We follow Marlo as she deals with all the headaches of unappreciated motherhood, from a baby who won’t stop crying at all hours of the night to older kids who won’t give you a moment to yourself to a husband who clearly doesn’t get it. As it ends, Tully shows up at the house, telling Marlo she’s there to take care of her.
It’s a sweet and gentle trailer that works pretty well. Theron once again shows she’s capable of just about anything. There’s not much of the story shown here, just the premise, but it’s enough to sell people on what seems to be an unusual, if relatable, premise.
Once more the second trailer opens as Marlo is dealing with the stress of being what amounts to be a solo parent. She’s resistant to the idea of a “night nanny” to help her out and let her get some sleep but eventually relents, allowing Tully to come into her home. The two bond as Marlo realizes she needs more help than she was ready to admit and Tully is there to provide more than just someone to watch the kids at night.
Online and Social
After the second trailer is finished playing you get to the main page of the official website, which has prompts to get tickets, subscribe to Focus Features’ email newsletter or follow the movie on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot happening on the site as you scroll down. An “About the Film” section has a story synopsis and cast/crew lists followed by both trailers and a collection of positive critical quotes. That’s it.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
I’m sure there’s been TV and outdoor advertising done but I can’t say I’ve seen any of it. I do know the trailers and other short videos have been used as ads on social media and that I’ve seen the key art and video snippets used for other online ads across a few sites.
Media and Publicity
While not announced as part of the actual festival, it was eventually revealed the film would be this year’s “secret screening” at Sundance as a way to build buzz and create an air of exclusivity around it.
A tribute event for Theron allowed the actor to talk about working with Reitman on a few occasions now, what the character in this story was like and much more.
Theron used a feature recently introduced by Google allowing celebrities to answer questions and otherwise respond to fans and queries to explain what International Women’s Day meant to her. That was part of a larger theme in the publicity that had her and the other notable members of the cast and crew talking about modern parenthood and related issues. Included in that was a feature profile in Elle where she commented on being a parent in our current political climate and other personal stories.
In case you missed it, though I’m not sure how, this movie is coming at you from the same team behind Juno and Young Adult, the latter of which doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Focus Features wants to make sure you’re assigning whatever appreciation you have for those films to this one and that you choose to see it in theaters as a result.
Aside from that, the message of the campaign is not only that Charlize Theron is an incredible and often underappreciated actor capable of comedy, action and drama but that motherhood is a soul-sucking march toward nothingness. That’s a powerful message right now and could be really interesting if the movie manages to avoid the usual “we both learned something from each other and now we can go back to our lives” cliches too many similar stories fall into. Here’s hoping.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.