FOCUS FEATURES (2018)

 

Director: Jason Reitman

 

Starring: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass, Ron Livingston

This is not a follow up to 2016’s Sully.

 

I’m not an expert on motherhood (funnily enough) however I can say that parenting is a tough gig. Those little tykes have a penchant and sixth sense for turning up the volume just when all you need is a little sleep/rest/food/poo (delete as applicable unless it really is all at once). Movies that tackle the subject are generally either overly positive on it (i.e. the blessings and miracle of it all) or treat it as a savage life misstep. Tully, under the guise of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody’s sharp writing, manages to eschew both of these clichés. Just about.

As the worn-out mother of two – soon to be three – Marlo (Theron) is a woman who is wandering the line of a pure breakdown. Her son Jonah has a developmental disorder and his school isn’t exactly helping with the issue. Her husband Craig (Livingston) works most of time when he isn’t playing computer games and her wealthy brother Craig’s (Duplass) idea of help is to pay for a night-nanny, something the filthy rich have in abundance. After the birth of her third child and Jonah’s schools lack of assistance comes to a head, Marlo takes the leap and hires night-nanny Tully (Davis), a quirky young nanny who oozes positivity. Too good to be true, right? Maybe it is. The two develop a close bond and suddenly the world seems like a better place. Too good to be true?

 

Charlize Theron tackles the role of Marlo with a raw determination akin to her Academy Award-winning turn in Monster and her pain, anguish, fatigue and wins are all handled in a way that Theron seems so adept at - she’s birthed life but in turn, it’s taking hers. She’s relatable without being cookie cutter and it’s just another excellent performance from a super actress. Mackenzie Davis, too, is a perfect fit for the role of happy-go-lucky nanny, her quirkiness and image sit just right for the role of Tully and together with Theron, they are an excellent double act. Cody Diablo’s writing is as sharp and incisive as ever, falling on the right side of pretentious and kooky (thank god). Tully is full of quips and inspirational quotes, bouncing with millennial charm and Marlo too is afforded some smart lines from the writer of Juno, Young Adult and the devilishly pleasurable Jennifer’s Body. The humour throughout works well and helps undercut the heavier moments that rightly appear amongst the levity and peculiarity.

 

The story itself doesn’t blow the doors down but there’s always that intrigue in the air when Tully enters the movie. What’s the deal with her and what’s the caveat? When these questions begin to receive answers, it’s here that the movie falters towards its clunky and surprisingly not-very-good conclusion. Before the third act kicks in, Tully had a charm and effectiveness that kept the intrigue levels high and the movie thundering along at a consistently good rate, but that ending. Sigh.

 

As a take on motherhood, Tully is an interesting effort and highlights the more stressful aspects that bringing a child into the world can bring – not just mentally, but physically as well. There’s a stark rawness at times and these moments are the heartbeat of Tully – it’s not trying to be magical or horrifying, it’s just portraying authenticity. Two thirds of the movie is great and Theron is once again excellent – for a raw, yet offbeat, slice of dramatic comedy, Tully delivers the goods. Mostly.

May 5th 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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