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Tully – Movie Review

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Tully – Movie Review

Rating: A- (Great)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

With Juno, director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody tapped into how youth react to the prospect of becoming a mother and awaiting that responsibility. It’s fitting they have re-teamed for Tully, an ode to motherhood and the pressures of raising children. Reitman is one of those filmmakers who manages to understand humanity and the central relationship between Charlize Theron’s mother of three and a kind nanny is beautifully explored. Tully is a warm blanket of a movie, featuring characters its makers clearly have a lot of respect towards. Cody’s ability at mixing sharp comedy with difficult emotions also continues here and shows how well these two minds understand each other.

Tully begins in a way that’s appropriately noisy, with brilliantly edited moments of calamity. Marlo’s frustration and stress come through, thanks in large part to Theron’s performance. There’s immediately a sympathy towards her and Reitman is definitely on her side during her frequent ordeals of changing diapers and calming her loud children. Reitman uses the house itself to excellent effect as there is a claustrophobic and cluttered feeling to a living room filled with toys and a kitchen full of frozen foods. The first act captures a tricky family dynamic, including a frequently agitated son, setting up the rest of the story and the necessary presence that follows.

When Mackenzie Davis’s titular night nanny makes her appearance, Reitman moves away from the ruckus. Tully turns from a showcase for Theron into a two woman show, as Davis makes an instant impact. Suddenly, the direction has a more welcoming and soothing quality to it. There’s an inviting friendliness in Davis’s performance and it’s understandable why Marlo would warm up to Tully. Some could interpret it as a sisterly bond or even a more romantic homoerotic relationship, but the best scenes of Tully include their interactions. Tully could have easily been written as some magical Mary Poppins swooping in on an umbrella, but Davis plays the proper note in making her a genuine helpful figure.

Cody’s screenplay takes some inventive directions, which might divide audiences, but it’s a refreshing take on this sort of story. Reitman has never been a director who relies on familiar storytelling devices and that’s one of many reasons he’s one of today’s most consistent filmmakers. Parenthood is often unpredictable and everyone reacts to having offspring in different ways. However, most importantly, it’s obvious how hard Marlo is trying, even as she becomes enchanted by Tully’s kindness. Tully also doesn’t shun the father, played by Ron Livingston. While he’s somewhat in his own world, frequently absorbed by his nightly video game sessions, Drew is a good husband and father who tries to help out when he can. This is a likeable family and Reitman and Cody are even able to transform simple dinnertime scenes into great character moments.

Tully is like a warm blanket that cuddles with us, like all of the best mothers do. It’s a film where mothers will definitely find some relatable element, but their older children should also watch what Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody have created here. There are far too many beautiful moments to mention and it’s heartwarming without becoming too saccharine. Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis are a wonderful team, with the latter providing a welcoming and calming character we want to interact with. Tully is the kind of movie we need more of, featuring characters who the director clearly respects and he wants to see good things happen to them as they go through their struggles.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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