Review: Tully

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Title: Tully
Rating: R
Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass
Runtime: 1 hr 36 mins

What It Is: In this family drama, Marlo (Charlize Theron) is an exhausted mother of two young children and a newborn. At the end of her rope and frustrated with the outcome of her life that is one routine and one temper tantrum and one sleepless night after another, she decides to hire a night nanny, the lively Tully (Mackenzie Davis) who helps her step back, heal, and enjoy her life. 

What We Think: It does quite a few things right, especially things that I haven’t seen too often in other films. Often do we get to see the life of the office-worker, the everyman in his dull day-to-day life whose face is stained with disappointment and boredom and seeks out some sort of emancipation (take Wanted or American Beauty or The Apartment for example). Here, we get a beautifully, painfully grounded look at a different kind of monotony: motherhood. This film delves closely and honestly in what it means to be a mother having to raise her children every single day. Charlize Theron in her raw and believable portrayal of Marlo perfectly evokes the physical, emotional, and social struggles of motherhood; something to be cherished in Tully. This movie perfectly puts you in Marlo’s shoes, making you feel just as worn out, wound-up, and helpless as she is, and when help finally does come along you feel just as relieved and uplifted. That being said, it looses much of its steam in the later acts with strange moments that break your immersion and say…“what just happened?” Much of the film has you questioning where it’s going, which is good, but at the same time it keeps you wondering what kind of film it wants you to think it is, which is incredibly distracting in a Jason Reitman movie (the same director for works such as Young Adult and Juno). It detracts from the message and reality we’ve settled into, and while those immersion-breaking moments could stand as defendable creative choices, I found myself enjoying and liking the film less and was instead sort of dumbfounded and unimpressed.

Our Grade: B-, At least in the first half, it succeeds at being compelling and very well written, then falls into a trap in which it feels forced to push its messages and relationships (especially since Tully herself doesn’t even appear until the middle of the movie). It tends to play a little too heavy-handedly in the almost magical connection between Marlo and her manic-pixie-dream-nanny and loses its charm due to some plot devices that aim to be more psychological. The film is tonally confused and at times ridiculous, but in the end still holds up as a wonderful performance piece on behalf of Theron and is overall conceptually competent and important.

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