Movie Reviews

‘Tully’ Review: Mommy Issues

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Quick Take: Tully, the new film by Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult), takes on the mommy world, and shows the dark side of motherhood with all its scars and blemishes. But is it a good film?

I’m not a mother, obviously, and can never be one. Heck, I can never even be a parent to anything other than a cat or a dog or other pet, so a movie like Tully doesn’t resonate with me as it would others, especially the mommy-blog world. The trials and tribulations of raising kids is beyond my scope, though I am the uncle and great-uncle to about 20 kids, so I’ve witnessed the chaos. I’ve just always been able to walk away from it all without consequences. For that reason, I can talk about Tully as a film, but I cannot truly relate to its theme.

Tully is the story of Marlo (Charlize Theron), a stressed out mother of two children, one of which has special needs. When we meet her, Marlo is pregnant with her third child, which ups the stress levels to an even higher degree. Marlo is also well past her breaking point, as the stress of a pregnancy and raising two kids has her redlining. Marlo and her husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), clearly state that baby No. 3 was an accident, but they push on, trying to make it work. On the flip side is Marlo’s successful brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), who offers to hire a night nanny for Marlo so she can get control of her life.

Tully Review

Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis), the magical night nanny who quickly proceeds to take control of the newborn and free up Marlo to begin regaining some semblance of her life. Tully seems like a dream come true; this absolute perfect person who can calm the baby and still make cupcakes for the other kids to take to school. She can clean the house and still feed the newborn without disturbing Marlo’s sleep at all. Marlo quickly begins to find herself with the help of Tully, and things begin to get easier all around. Tully’s influence even exerts itself in other areas of Marlo’s life — including her sex life with Drew — and it seems that Tully herself is some kind of Mary Poppins-like savior that finally helps Marlo cope with her stress.

Tully was written by Diablo Cody, and was directed by Jason Reitman, both Academy Award-winners. These two have previously worked together on 2007’s Juno and 2011’s Young Adult, that latter of which also starred Theron. Tully shares so many themes with Juno that it almost serves as the book ends of one long narrative, and Young Adult fits in there too. Juno was about two high school kids who accidentally get pregnant and have to deal with those consequences, and Tully revisits that theme as the adults accidentally get pregnant and have to deal with the same consequences, just in a different time of their lives. That juxtaposition is where the two films end, though, as Tully takes off in some unexpected directions, and the audience is left unsure what to think by the last frame.

Tully Review

The screening I attended was full of mothers, and they would moan and laugh at certain things that I didn’t understand, and I could literally — and I’m using the term correctly — LITERALLY hear the female crowd around me nodding throughout the film. I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad, but I could feel that most women in the audience related to the undue stress that Marlo was going through, and for them, seeing another woman pushed the brink of an absolute breakdown was entertaining.

The script is solid for the most part and the acting and directing does its job to back up Cody’s sometimes uncomfortable, and problematic story. Charlize Theron took method acting to a new level by gaining massive weight for the role, and she is a far cry from the fit, dangerous assassin we saw last summer in Atomic Blonde. Her performance alone is worth watching the film for, but Tully has problems in other areas, particularly in how the men are portrayed.

Tully Review

Drew is shown primarily walking in and out of doors, saying hello and goodbye to his wife and kids, and playing video games every night in bed with a headset on. I guess that makes him some kind of villain here? Craig is a meddler, who tries to exert his lifestyle on his sister by offering to fund her night nanny. To me, that’s a good guy, but to Diablo Cody, he’s a selfish person who doesn’t care about anything and will pay to have his children raised by someone else for the convenience, as if that is a bad thing.

Both of these roles felt insulting, and it came off like an attack on males in general. That makes Tully less of a movie for couples, and more of a Lifetime movie-of-the-week, made especially for stay-at-home moms who need a film like this to empower them to not feel like the entire world is against them. Or, I could be wrong. As I said, I’m not a mother.

Tully is Mary Poppins for the Mommy-blog set, and while it has some moments of levity, in actuality, it’s the story of a mother who is breaking from the stress. One who is ultimately saved by Tully and everything is made right by the end. It’s a flawed film that has a good performance by Theron and a soundtrack chock full of Cyndi Lauper, for some reason, and in the end, a mother with issues like this needs someone to save them, as long as it’s not a man, apparently.

Tully is rated R and is in theaters on May 4.

SCORE: 3.8 out of 5

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