Film review from the 2018 Atlanta Film Festival.
Marlo (Charlize Theron) is a woman at the end of a very short rope. She is nine months pregnant with a seven-year-old girl, Sarah (Lia Frankland) and a five-year-old boy Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica). Marlo has her hands full with Jonah, as he has special needs and tends to throw a fit when his routines are altered and delayed. One of the first scenes of Tully is Marlo going to her kid’s school to meet with the principal. Jonah throws a massive fit, screening and kicking Marlo’s seat because the regular parking lot is full and Marlo has to park in a different parking lot.
Marlo is married to Craig (Mark Duplass) a caring father who works during the day but does help out with the kids at night, helping Sarah with homework and reading to Jonah before bedtime. The house is a mess, and it’s not uncommon for the family to have frozen food for dinner. While Marlo and Craig have a loving relationship, their sex life is non-existent. It’s all Marlo can do to make it to the bedroom before she passes out and Craig has a nightly routine of playing video games before he goes to sleep.
Marlo, Craig and the kids go to her brother’s house for dinner. Drew (Ron Lingston) is doing much better financially than Marlo and Craig. They have a vast, immaculate house, a nanny who takes care of the kids and the dinner, and a chef. Elyse(Elaine Tan), Drew’s wife, is the type of person who thinks everyone lives this way and is in the dark on how hard it is for Marlo to raise her kids. For a birthday present, Drew offers to hire a night nurse for Marlo for when the baby comes. Marlo initially turns the offer down but when she does have the baby, and she becomes sleep deprived she decides to accept the offer and get a night nurse. Tully (Mackenzie Davis) pops up one night at the front door and immediately tells Marlo, that ‘I’m not here to take care of the baby, I am here to take care of you.’ With the help of Tully, Marlo’s life is about to drastically change.
Tully is the third collaboration between director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody. While I am a huge fan of their first film Juno (2007), I never warmed up to their 2nd film Young Adult (2011). I am happy to say that third time’s the charm, as Tully is witty, funny and overall moving. They say, write what you know and Diablo Cody has done just that since she is the mother of two kids. Cody has created characters that seem real and rich in substance. Marlo, the world-weary mom who always has a quick retort to anyone who is giving her trouble, is one of the funniest characters that Cody has ever created. I am guessing that there is a lot of Cody in the role of Marlo. A good portion of this film is a comedy, mostly due to Marlo’s lines, though there are also some funny physical moments too, like the state of the house before Tully arrives and after Tully has applied her magic.
While at first glance, the character of Tully seems like your stereotypical manic pixie girl that used to be popular in the 90s but there is more substance to Tully, a character that becomes more and more important in the plot of the film. The relationship between Tully and Marlo makes this film work. They have real conversations, and as Marlo gets to know and trust Tully, Marlo is willing to talk more about herself, especially her past (which may have been a little wild) and her relationship (or lack of) with her husband. There isn’t anything that is taboo in their conversations, including the lack of sex between Marlo and Craig. These conversations are funny, warm and make some of the best dialogue that Cody has ever written.
The cast is superb, led by Charlize Theron’s Marlo, a performance that could get her an Academy Award nomination. We forget just how good Theron’s comedic timing is, and she uses it to perfection in this film. Theron’s on-screen chemistry with Davis is sublime and makes this film so enjoyable to watch. Davis gives an equally strong performance as the insightful Tully. Their banter back and forth almost seems like a tennis match, each actor pitching lines back and forth. The rest of the cast, though somewhat in the shadows, are outstanding, with Mark Duplass, playing the living but sometimes clueless husband, standing out from the rest.
Reitman and Cody have given us in Tully a film that is funny, touching and packed with a few surprises. While not quite on the level of the brilliant Juno, Tully still is a film not to be missed. It’s a hilarious film that any mother can relate to. Now if every mother could get someone like Tully to help them out. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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