Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
Charlize Theron … Marlo
Mackenzie Davis … Tully
Mark Duplass … Craig
Ron Livingston … Drew
Emily Haine … Barista
Kitty Crystal (Crystal Lonneberg) … Bartender
Elaine Tan … Elyse
Marceline Hugot … Coffee Shop Customer
Elfina Luk … Hospital Employee
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|Producer:||Bron Studios [Canada]
Right Way Productions
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In 2007, director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody teamed up for a little movie called “Juno,” about a teenager finding herself facing some very adult responsibilities that she’s just not ready for. In 2011, they reteamed for “Young Adult,” about a thirty-something who refused to grow up and deal with the adult responsibilities that faced her. And in this year’s “Tully,” they give us a look at a woman who has embraced adult responsibilities for quite some time but finds herself so exhausted by them that she is reaching her breaking point. While these descriptions may seem a bit glib (and they seem that way because they are), it’s impossible not to watch Reitman and Cody’s latest film without noticing the parallels between the strong female characters at the core of their cinematic universe.
Charlize Theron plays Marlo, a very-pregnant, and already very worn-down, mother of two who is gearing up for life with the new (and unexpected) baby number three. Her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is a hard-working man and good father, but one who puts so much effort into everything else (including his zombie video-games) that he finds little time for his wife. He isn’t uncaring but seems so tired from making ends meet that their marriage seems more like a co-parenting arrangement than anything else. Marlo’s very wealthy brother Craig (Mark Duplass), invites them over for dinner and surprises Marlo with an idea for a baby present. He wants to pay for a night nanny to come over each night after Marlo has the baby to make sure the child is looked after so Marlo can get rest. Marlo rejects the offer, but Craig forces her to at least take the number of the nanny in case she changes her mind.
After the baby is born, the exhaustion naturally intensifies, and after a particularly stressful (and profane) blow-up directed toward her son’s Principal, Marlo finally gives in and makes the call for the night nanny. And later that evening, Tully (Mackenzie Davis) arrives. The situation begins awkwardly, and Marlo isn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of a stranger watching her baby while she sleeps upstairs, but, after a few nights of better sleep than she’s had in years, Marlo is a believer. Tully doesn’t just watch the baby; she bakes cupcakes and finds time to deep-clean the house to the point the children don’t even recognize it the next morning. Tully also provides Marlo a sounding board when she needs to vent, and challenges Marlo to not lose sight of herself while taking care of so many others.
“Tully” is rated R for “language and some sexuality/nudity” and is definitely a movie for adults only, although it seems unlikely that many kids or teenagers will be all that interested in seeing it. The language is strong, but not as constant as in other R-rated movies. There are multiple uses of the F-word, although most come during Marlo’s tirade in the Principal’s office. Other colorful words are used throughout the movie, as well as a few uses of the name of Jesus.
There is some sexual dialog, as Tully questions Marlo about her sex life and about Drew’s pornography preferences. Nudity is seen in both non-sexual and sexual contexts. We see Marlo breastfeeding on several occasions, and she strips down to her underwear at the dinner table after her son spills his drink on her.
Marlo’s nighttime TV habits involve watching a show called “Gigolos,” and we briefly see bare breasts and rear nudity, while also hearing the gigolos discuss their craft. Marlo runs into an old roommate at a coffee shop, and while the encounter is brief, it’s evident to the audience that Marlo and the woman were at some point in a pretty serious relationship. And then… there is a very brief scene involving Tully and Drew that seems inappropriate while it is happening, but less so later. As always, caution and discernment are recommended when determining if this movie is right for you.
“Tully” doesn’t contain any overtly Christian themes or messages, but it does emphasize the importance of mothers, while showing just how difficult motherhood can be. There is a montage of motherly monotony after Marlo’s baby is born that is sure to resonate with any woman who has ever dealt with a newborn. The film also alludes to the importance a husband can have in being able to recognize the amount of work his wife does in maintaining the home, and in giving her the freedom she needs to take care of herself, especially when she is unlikely to ask for it herself.
While “Young Adult” might be my personal favorite of the three Reitman/Cody collaborations, “Tully” might be the smartest, and feel the most authentic. There isn’t a single performance that rings false, or a line that feels out of character. This isn’t “Juno,” with smart, witty people saying clever “movie” things. This is a movie where a mom gets caught saying “I’ll kill myself” (in jest) and then must explain to her ever-attentive daughter that she was just kidding. I appreciated seeing a movie about real people living real situations and saying real things.
But, how you feel about “Tully” in the end is likely going to depend on your reaction to a plot shift that takes place near the end. It caught me off-guard, and kind of bothered me. It wasn’t offensive; I just thought it was unnecessary. I left the theater last night thinking this, but immediately upon getting into my car I realized I couldn’t shake it. Normally, I write my reviews right after seeing the movies, while my thoughts are still fresh. I couldn’t with this one. I needed more time digesting how everything wrapped up. And, the more I think about it, the more I appreciate what Reitman and Cody did, and the more I think it adds a deeper authenticity to an already genuine-feeling film.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.