Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass, Elaine Tan, and Ron Livingston
“How did we do it?” The common question anyone who has young children proclaim when reminiscing about those precious days, possible months depending on how lucky you are, when you slowly lose your mind trying to maintain the backwards schedule of caring for an infant. And if you are honest, you’ll understand that the answer to the question of how one gets through these arduous moments of parenting is complex, which is why most parents strip it down to simply calling it “love”. And for mom, it’s even more complicated.
In “Tully” director Jason Reitman takes a detailed analysis of what it’s like being a parent, specifically a mom, with three kids and all the responsibilities that come along with maintaining a sense of normalcy amongst the chaos of everything. Who has time to clean the house, make a well balanced meal, or exercise when one child is crying, another is asking their one hundredth question, and the third child is nowhere to be found? Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, who also wrote 2007’s “Juno”, taps into these emotions in a raw, desperate way.
Marlo (Charlize Theron) and Drew (Ron Livingston) are parents of two young children with one on the way. Drew works a busy job that leaves Marlo with the primary responsibility of taking care of every aspect associated with the children. It’s stressful and Marlo is struggling to stay above water. Help arrives in the form of a night nanny named Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a free spirited young woman who helps Marlo rest and make sense of everything that is going on around her.
“Tully” has an interesting quality of being authentically tragic while also trying to be a humorous comedy at the same time. The surprise is that it actually accomplishes this extensive balancing act early in the film. The shifting tone operates in one moment as a call of despair for the lead character Marlo then in the next moment a steadfast battle cry that the gender roles that have come to identify the responsibilities women are “suppose” to occupy are no longer pertinent.
Things operate in standard fashion in the beginning, Marlo is doing her best to spin all the plates but when she gives birth to her third child, the plates come tumbling. And as Marlo begins to come undone by everything, a savior named Tully wanders in from the night. Tully is like Mary Poppins, she takes care of the children, cleans the house, and has time to make nicely decorated cupcakes while expelling a few thought provoking ideas about life. It’s hard not to appreciate the free spirited nature of the young woman, but the arrival of the character introduces some complications to the story.
Marlo and Tully are extensively constructed characters, which unfortunately renders the remaining characters as scenery late in the film. Also, the interesting aspects that concern Marlo’s struggle to maintain her identity as more than just a mother and wife is lost for a story that focuses on female friendship with pop music in tow. It’s a strange turn considering the film makes exceptional progress towards tackling the subject matter of postpartum depression in a honest yet humorous way. A late narrative shift in the third act almost derails the entire story, it’s a choice that will undoubtedly determine whether the film works or doesn’t work for the viewer.
Still, even when the film makes the occasional odd turn, everything remains fairly enjoyable partly because Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis are so good in their respective roles.
The wave of emotion for Marlo is easily achieved by the skillful talents of Charlize Theron who completely owns the role. Ms. Theron’s comedic timing is also well utilized during moments when the mom strikes a comment or glare in the direction of those that make assumptions about her many roles. Mackenzie Davis is also very good, playing Tully with charm mixed with a little bit of attitude.
“Tully” is an interesting character piece, proving that Charlize Theron is still at the top of her game. However, the shifting quality of the tone seems to dilute the power of the message that is trying to be proposed. Still, even when “Tully” strays, the film remains engaging, honest, and humorous about parenthood and more specifically motherhood.
3.50 out of 5.00