Tully

Review by Hannah Woodhead @goodjobliz

Directed by

Jason Reitman

Starring

Charlize Theron Mackenzie Davis Ron Livingston

Anticipation.

Reitman and Diablo have a patchy collaborative relationship.

Enjoyment.

Two magnetic leads make up for a patronising premise.

In Retrospect.

Messy, but then again, so is motherhood.

Jason Reitman reunites with Diablo Cody and Charlize Theron for a frank exploration of motherhood.

Four of Jason Reitman’s seven feature films have focused on mothers in some capacity. From his breakout hit Juno to 2013’s not-hit Labor Day, the filmmaker seems fascinated by maternal figures, and a decade after he introduced the world to Ellen Page, he’s brought us another tale of matriarchal malaise in the Charlize Theron-helmed Tully.

Tully, as it happens, is a 26-year-old night nanny (played by Mackenzie Davis) whose services are gifted to Theron’s perpetually-exhausted Marlo by her successful brother Craig (a smarmy but sincere Mark Duplass) as she prepares for the arrival of her unplanned third child. The messy minutiae of Marlo’s stagnant life are rendered with sympathetic detail as she attempts to raise her existing children – one of whom has undiagnosed additional needs – as well as the new baby, with little support from her well-meaning but aloof husband Drew (played with a permanent expression of bewilderment by Ron Livingston).

Theron has consistently proven her versatility as an actor, and as Margo she encapsulates a new sort of maternal vulnerability as a woman who finds her identity eroded by the stress of raising a family almost single-handedly.

With the arrival of the effervescent Tully, Marlo’s life begins to take a positive turn, the chemistry between Davis and Theron elevating an otherwise a fairly cliched premise. Tully is, after all, a nocturnal, millennial Mary Poppins. There are elements of the film that do work very well – Reitman manages to capture the stifling monotony and tedium that comes from the challenges of parenthood, and Diablo Cody’s script is often as witty as her past work, as well as providing some astute gender observations (including the painfully honest “Girls don’t heal”). It’s just not enough to save Tully from straying into absurdism as a third-act twist renders everything prior pointless, and some unsubtle recurring mermaid imagery becomes a distraction.

All the pain of Marlo’s story is unconvincingly tidied up with a final coda, doing little to truly provide an accurate portrayal of postpartum depression. What could have been an honest account of the complexities of motherhood instead feels like a Hallmark version, strangely sanitised even when broaching the topic of a spicy marriage-livening threesome. Reitman seems unsure if Tully is a fairy tale or an admonition, but either way, a true measure of the film’s success will be whether it puts women off motherhood entirely by virtue of the site of a knackered Theron waddling about in an adult diaper.

Published 1 May 2018

Tags: Charlize Theron Diablo Cody Jason Reitman

Anticipation.

Reitman and Diablo have a patchy collaborative relationship.

Enjoyment.

Two magnetic leads make up for a patronising premise.

In Retrospect.

Messy, but then again, so is motherhood.

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