Tully (2018)
Tully (2018)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: May 4th, 2018 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jason Reitman Actors: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass, Elaine Tan, Asher Miles Fallica, Lia Frankland

 


 

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ith just a few days left before the arrival of their third child, Marlo (Charlize Theron) and Drew Monroe’s (Ron Livingston) already hectic lives are about to get even more taxing. When their special-needs son, Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), is dismissed from his prestigious elementary school, Marlo reaches her breaking point, and agrees to use a “night nanny” who will help her take care of their newborn daughter, Mia. Initially dubious about the idea of a stranger being in their home, Marlo soon changes her mind after meeting 26-year-old caregiver Tully (Mackenzie Davis), whose breezy and upbeat disposition reinvents the struggling mother’s position on the difficulties of parenthood.

The resonance of “Tully” will depend largely on what audience members bring with them. Some viewers may see Marlo’s choices as misguided or ignorant, while others will be unable to suppress sympathy. Her husband seems less than enthusiastic and helpful when it comes to the children, which is exacerbated by developmental complications for Jonah and, of course, a pending birth. “Such a blessing,” she huffs, as if entirely unsure whether or not she was spontaneously transplanted into someone else’s exasperating life.

As much as the audience might judge Marlo, weighing her circumstances as consequences or merely standard motherhood, the characters in the film judge her, too. In fact, it vocalizes just about everything viewers might be thinking – from the quantity and quality of spousal participation to a flagging body image to the individual pieces of parental responsibility. Screenwriter Diablo Cody extends her dependable sarcasm, imbuing Marlo with hilariously cynical commentary and observations that betray the same adolescent angst found in “Juno.” Here, however, there’s an undeniable level of maturation, not just in the ages of the personas but also in their articulations, which have gone from sassy to just shy of bitter, with reality – and a hint of mortality – hitting hard. Marlo’s character is along the lines of Juno as an adult, having never given up on the feistiness. The dialogue remains quirky, funny, and endearing; it’s one of the strongest aspects of “Tully.”

Rarely visualized in such detail (particularly with the monotony and miseries of breastfeeding, sleeplessness, deteriorating bodies and energy levels, and countless other stresses) and virtually never a sole conflict, motherhood is essentially roasted here, making it as easy to laugh at Marlo’s discomforts as it is to empathize. Many of her troubles are commonplace, yet they’re so infrequently addressed on the big screen that they appear unique and cinematic. It would have been a daring choice to stick with child-rearing as the chief predicament, but more is at work in “Tully,” as Marlo’s unique relationship with her night nanny begins to take on a Mary-Poppins-in-Brooklyn sort of vibe. Curiously, one of the biggest revelations is outflanked by the notion of perspective. Positive or negative situations are open to interpretation; perhaps every element of raising children can be either hellish or heavenly, depending on one’s outlook.

As the picture progresses, Marlo’s frame of reference does shift, generating a bittersweetness that nicely complements the wealth of humor mined from what must surely be common afflictions on unprepared parents. With some of its designs and sensibilities rooted in fantasy (in part through recurring dream sequences), “Tully” does deviate from the eye-opening yet slice-of-life reality it initially intends to portray, but it still manages to be hopeful, humorous, and satisfying. Plus, it’s one of those rare pictures aimed squarely at adults, but without the cheap thrills or melodrama that so often plague such scripts.

– The Massie Twins

  • 7/10