Dream team Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody reunite for their third feature film, which offers another frank and funny look at parenthood, adulthood and everything in between.If you last saw Charlize Theron with one arm driving through the desert hell-bent on rescuing a group of imprisoned women, or breaking heads to an 80s disco beat, you’ll be in for a shock when you tune in to Tully. Here, the Academy Award winning superstar is an expectant mother ready to burst. Heavily pregnant with her third child - she already has Sarah (Lia Frankland) and Jonah (Asher Miles Fallicia) - Marlo (Theron) is on the verge. Of giving birth, of having a breakdown.To the untrained eye, Marlo presents a serene front, pretending her life with husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is oh-so perfect. In real life though, Drew is a well-meaning husband addicted to video games, Sarah is neglected, and Jonah, who desperately needs some love and attention, is about to be expelled from his private school. No one seems to have told Marlo that in the movies, mothers instantly dissolve their pregnancy weight, and shape-shift their bodies into thin, taut, childless figures. And then Marlo’s baby comes, only adding to this deafening crescendo of chaos.
Marlo’s brother Craig (Mark Duplass), like us, can see where all this is headed. Sensing his sister is teetering on the precipice of a breakdown, he announces that he has hired the services of Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a young all-singing all-dancing Supernanny-type. Marlo is none too pleased – this is another condescending act by her douche brother, and she takes it as a not-so-subtle swipe at her mothering skills. But she’s teetering particularly thin ice, and after a few more run-ins with wobbly bags of breast milk and screaming toddlers she’s had enough and is ready to accept a helping hand. Enter Tully.
Tully is everything Marlo thinks she isn’t: young, attractive, full of life, caring, sassy, funny, wise. She looks after the baby at night, she gives Marlo much-needed pep talks; in all, she brings some life into the family. She must be too good to be true, right?
Naturally, the plot picks up pace here, and the audience begins to wonder where the drama is going to come in. Is Tully a liar? Will Marlo be jealous? All becomes clear, in a twist that – though easy enough to see coming – gives the film a new layer of meaning.
If you last saw Charlize Theron with one arm driving through the desert hell-bent on rescuing a group of imprisoned women, you’ll be in for a shock when you tune in to Tully.
The film’s trailers do Tully a disservice, in some ways. True, it is the funny, quirky, irreverent take on the strifes and stresses of motherhood, but it’s also much darker, much deeper and more ambitious than that.
Theron is excellent, just as she was in the Reitman-Cody film Young Adult. She completely embodies Marlo’s world-weariness, and her complete shift in body language as Marlo gives into trepidation and agrees to hire Tully is endlessly believable. Undoubtedly mothers in the audience will recognise the cynicism and tiredness written across Theron’s face for the first third of the film. It would be lazy to call this a ‘brave’ performance – there shouldn’t be anything unusual about a realistic and un-pretty portrayal of motherhood in mainstream cinema – but it is certainly a powerful turn, that is at once endearing, guttural, desperate and note-perfect. Theron and the ensemble cast perform so well that they overcome what is a fairly weak and simple ending. But the film, peppered with Cody’s signature snark, is still a difficult delight.
In the end, it turns out this is a movie about some real, serious and painful issues. The trailer doesn’t really portray that well at all. Indeed, Tully isn’t the light and fluffy, zany, quirky and all-round lovable almost coming-of-age comedy the trailers would suggest. But it’s more profound, and a much more grown-up film that doesn’t need a babysitter.
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