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Why 'Tully' writer tackled this 'taboo subject' in her movie

Writing the movie was a 'therapeutic' experience.
by Donna Freydkin / / Source: TODAY

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For some mothers, childbirth and parenthood are enchanting times of unicorns and rainbows and hugs and kisses.

For others, having a child is like living with an awkward houseguest who couldn’t remember to flush his own toilet.

Those who long for a less sugarcoated take on parenting will likely respond to “Tully,” Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman’s blistering take on what it means to put yourself second. Or third. Or ninth. And the slog of doing it every hour, as you try to to keep some semblance of your old self intact.

Related: If you saw 'Tully' and you're looking for help, here are mental health resources.

Cody, who's married to actor Dan Maurio and has three "noisy and dirty and loud" boys, wrote the screenplay after giving birth to her third. She didn't recognize herself in any of the moms she saw on the big and small screens.

“I had not seen a lot of honest depictions of motherhood so I figured, we might as well go there," she told TODAY Parents.

"When my youngest was born, I was in way over my head. I had a newborn and two boys that I was chasing around and high-stress career. I hit a wall," she said.

The offspring of that is “Tully.” Charlize Theron, as mom-of-three Marlo, is grappling with her son’s developmental issues and can’t properly bond with her newborn. (The film is being released by Focus Features, owned by Comcast through Universal Pictures, a division of its wholly owned subsidiary.)

Read more: Charlize Theron talks about her 'very personal' connection to the mom in 'Tully'

Frayed moms, hanging on by a thread, are something rarely seen in pop culture. Even more verboten are mothers who are perhaps conflicted about raising kids in the first place.

“It’s a taboo subject. People expect us to be super nurturing," said Cody. "No matter what progress we make as women, we expect women to be warm and feminine and yielding and all those things.

"Mothers in particular feel like they need to pretend that they themselves are the most blissed-out happy creatures at all times. That’s not who I am at all. Sometimes when I’m parenting my kids I feel like I’m performing. It’s interesting trying to navigate who I am as a mom versus who I’m supposed to be,” said Cody.

Cody has tackled uncomfortable subjects before, breaking through with her screenplay for 2007's "Juno," about an unplanned teen pregnancy, and 2011's "Young Adult," starring Theron as an unapologetic, misanthropic would-be home-wrecker.

This time, in "Tully," Theron’s Marlo gets a baby nurse, at the behest of her brother. Suffice to say it doesn’t work out quite as advertised. Some critics have accused “Tully” of undermining postpartum depression, or mining it for comic relief. Not so, said Cody.

Charlize Theron plays a struggling mom in 'Tully'
Charlize Theron plays a struggling mom in 'Tully.' Focus Features / Youtube

“I’ve been through it myself so how can I possibly make light of it?” said Cody, adding that she doesn't pay attention to critics. "I’m shielded from all that."

Cody said for the most part, moms have come up to her, expressing their appreciation for being represented on screen. And naysayers are “dismissing my experience. What was important to me was that we had the representation. I haven’t seen a movie about someone struggling with postpartum. I want women to see the movie and feel seen.”

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