(director: Jason Reitman; screenwriter: Diablo Cody; cinematographer: Eric Steelberg; editor: Stefan Grube; music: Rob Simonsen; cast: Charlize Theron (Marlo), Lia Frankland (Sarah), Asher Miles Fallica (Jonah), Mackenzie Davis (Tully), Ron Livingston(Drew), Mark Duplass (Craig), Emily Haine (Barista), Elaine Tan (Elyse); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Diablo Cody, A.J. Dix, Helen Estabrook, Aaron L. Gilbert, Beth Kono, Mason Novick, Jason Reitman, Charlize Theron; Focus Features; 2018)

Theron, who gained weight to do the film, delivers all Cody’s smart lines with the smartness they deserved.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”/”Labor Day”) directs this realistic family drama sitcom. It’s written with vinegar by Diablo Cody. It’s set in the unnamed suburbs outside NYC. The stressed-out English major grad, Marlo (Charlize Theron), is on maternity leave from her boring corporate job in human resources. The thirty-something has two small children, the 8-year-old angelic Sarah (Lia Frankland) and the special-needs child given to tantrums, the 5-year-old Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica). The harried mom is expecting soon a third child, one that was not planned for. The mom is running on empty since Jonah is an exhausting child to care for, as he requires so much attention and is making her a nervous wreck. At night Marlo must brush him down to relax him, which was advice given by a therapist-one of many professionals who couldn’t diagnose what’s wrong with the kid (seemingly he has some kind of autism). Her 40-year-old husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is a nice man, who helps the kids with their homework, unwinds playing zombie video games at night and busies himself with his problem-solving techie job. The couple live in a modest home and love each other but are confused about what is happening to them, as both seem like lost souls unable to communicate. Furthermore, the unsympathetic black principal (Gameela Wright) in the private elementary school where Jonah is a kindergartner, wants him removed from school because he’s too quirky and difficult to handle. The school would never have admitted him, but Marlo’s brother is a big school donor. To ease the strain on Marlo, her self-made wealthy brother Craig (Mark Duplass) pays to get her a ‘night nanny’–someone to watch baby Mia overnight. Marlo though not feeling good about it, eventually bonds with the lively and caring nanny, a 26-year-old free-spirit named Tully (Mackenzie Davis, Canadian actress). The nanny has a knack for asking the right questions and giving the right answers, and being a game-changer. This film might seem similar at this point to many other such Hollywood family pics, but in the third act it goes off the Mary Poppins reservation with a slam-bang freaky night out for the girls in Marlo’s old haunts in the gentrified neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn, and things unexpectedly change in an amusing, weird and profound way. The film observes motherhood unafraid to talk about how difficult it can be for both the mother and father; and Theron, who gained weight to do the film, delivers all Cody’s smart lines with the smartness they deserved. It’s a film appropriate for Mother’s Day but a different film than one you might expect.

REVIEWED ON 5/5/2018 GRADE: B+     https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/