Starring Charlie Theron, MacKenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass
“Tully” feels like a do-over for director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody’s 2011 film, “Young Adult”. Charlie Theron stars in both. “Young Adult” was a film made with good ingredients that never quite mixed together in a cohesive manner. “Tully” tackles similar subject matter, a woman struggling to cope with her current predicament and the decisions that got her there. One major difference between the two films is that “Young Adult’s” stupid jokes are traded for sarcasm and poignancy in “Tully”. Cody’s bizarre script will require patience from the viewer before the point is made. What starts out as a comedy at the expense of a mother with her hands full, on the verge of a breakdown; morphs into a thought-provoking look at the downsides of motherhood. This is the “I hear you” movie for under-appreciated, over-stressed moms.
Pregnant with their third child, Marlo (Theron) and Drew (Ron Livingston) lead busy lives. He works and helps the kids with homework, while she does everything else. After newborn Mia arrives, Marlo’s brother (Mark Duplass) suggests a night nanny to help with the duties and provide her some relief. Tully (MacKenzie Davis) goes from stranger to saint overnight. The 27-year-old takes care of the baby, the house, the other kids, offers marital advice, emotional support, and ultimately becomes the third hand Marlo desperately needed. Drew and the kids begin to notice a change in mom’s mood, appearance and demeanor as Tully begins to transform their lives.
The moments of mental meltdown in Tully allow Theron to channel that crude sarcastic duel personality she wears in her real life.
The moments of mental meltdown in “Tully” allow Theron to channel that crude sarcastic duel personality she wears in her real life. Each time Theron distances herself from her natural beauty (i.e. “Monster“, “North Country”), her performances take on new life. Her talent as an artistic chameleon continues to impress. It is extraordinary how she so effortlessly transforms from post-apocalyptic warrior (“Mad Max Fury Road”) to barely educated mom from up-state New York. Audiences will be entertained by the way she delivers her lines with such naturalistic venom, but it’s the way she personifies exhaustion that compels the performance. Indie comedians Livingston and Duplass are just filler roles here, and thank goodness, because neither are very interesting or engaging. If anything, Livingston is playing the villain, but audiences will have to decipher if they feel that way.
“Tully’s” most problematic element is the numerous story-lines in the script that lead nowhere, especially with the children. If you were thinking about starting a family, here lies another film that might inadvertently discourage you. Cody’s script walks a tight rope between poking fun at hesitant mothers for laughs and offending the very audience “Tully” could have the most impact on. “I’m going to kill myself,” Marlo says in the car as the children listen. “Where is all this going,” the question audiences are likely to ask as they sit through this dark comedy. The ending certainly sums everything up, likely not in the way audiences will expect. What “Tully” delivers on the whole isn’t altogether original in concept, but it’s creative in delivery.
Reitman/Cody/Theron reunite for a more adept collaboration.