By Jack Dignan
Motherhood is hard. I mean, I think it is. I’m a young man who is in no way, shape or form a mother. But, like, I’m sure it’s hard. You go from being your own person making your way in the world to sharing your life with an infant who you then have to raise and mold into a fine young adult for the next eighteen to twenty years. When becoming a parent, it’s easy to lose yourself along the way, and that’s exactly what Jason Reitman’s latest sets out to explore.
Tully sees the Up in the Air director reuniting with Oscar winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult). After dealing with teen pregnancies and failed marriages (disclaimer: I haven’t actually seen Young Adult so for all I know it could have nothing to do with failed marriages) in their last two movies, Reitman and Cody tackle motherhood in a way yet to be seen on film. We follow the story of Marlo (Charlize Theron), a mother of three who’s struggling to the point where it’s become detrimental to her health. With husband Drew (Ron Livingston) often too busy to help out, she listens to the advice of her brother Craig (Mark Duplas) and hires a night nanny, Tully (Mackenzie Davis).
The core focus of Tully is the ever growing relationship between Tully and Marlo, as they both become further involved in each other’s lives, creating a natural understanding and assistance of the other’s problems. Their time spent together feels almost therapeutic. Tully, in Marlo’s eyes, reminds her of who she once was, and it’s this spark that sets her out on a personal quest to rekindle with her former self. Diablo Cody’s script is warm, tender and incredibly moving, fueled with drama but not afraid to get seriously funny.
She invests you in the lives of these two characters as they both interact and raise Marlo’s newborn baby. It’s real and hard-hitting, but never mellows in self-pity or melodrama. Her screenplay ticks off all the right emotional beats, creating a perfectly paced drama-comedy with plenty to say. Who we were fifteen, maybe twenty years ago is but a reflection of who we are today, and sometimes all we need is a little push to rekindle our relationship with our former self. Tully perfectly encapsulates all that is motherhood, flaws and imperfections definitely included.
Tully is Jason Reitman’s best film since Up in the Air. His direction here is impeccable, but the real stars of the show are Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis. You’d be hard pressed to find a performance of Theron’s that’s anything less than extraordinary, and Tully may even be up there as some of her best work. Her character is downtrodden and worn out, but you’re still able to connect with her in a really personal, moving way, and her arc is an exceptionally emotional, profound and touching one, all building up towards an ending that’ll either make or break the movie for you.
For me, this ending really puts everything in perspective. It did click about fifteen minutes before the reveal what was really going on, making the execution less of a surprise and more of a confirmation of what I already suspected, but it certainly drives the central themes and message of the story home, even if it does raise some serious problems and contradictions with a few earlier scenes. But still, Tully, as a whole, is rather fantastic, and one I can only see myself falling further in love with. Although I do have to admit, I spent most of the runtime trying to figure out if Mark Duplas and Ron Livingston were the same actor or not.
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