Tully: Film Review
Cast: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass, Elaine Tan
Director: Jason Reitman
Forever likely to be known as the M Night Shyamalan film of mothering, Diablo Cody's Tully is a mixed bag of a film, that flounders badly in its final strait.
Theron is largely excellent for a good two thirds of this as mother-of-two Marlo. Heavily pregnant with her third due any day, and with her brother (Duplass) claiming that something was snuffed out in her years ago, Marlo's life is pretty tough.
Ensconced in her family house, bedecked as it is in beige and with signs of age, and struggling to get by even with her husband absentee help, Marlo's given the chance to get a night nanny by her brother to help out.
Essentially the service comes in, watches the kid overnight and wakes the parent when feeding is needed - for her brother Craig, it was apparently a game-changer.
Initially reticent, Marlo grudgingly accepts - and into her life comes free spirit Tully (Davis, a gleeful blast of sunshine). Their relationship grows and a parenting groove is settled on - and to say more is to ruin some of what lies ahead.
The problem with Tully is that largely the first 60 minutes of the film, which concentrates on the pressures of mothering, the monotony of looking after children and the growing disillusionment of life outside of the bubble, are great.
Theron's more than committed to the role, with her pale gaunt appearance, worn down by endless feeding and a second problem child, conveying more of exasperation and acceptance than could ever be done by Cody's trademark whiplash dialogue. That's not to patronise or proffer feint praise to Theron, she's genuinely watchable and empathetic as she juggles all.
Equally, the feverishly anarchic and perky Davis adds a degree of life to Marlo's life and the house that prove a welcome tonic to the grind that's gone before.
But it's in the last 30 minutes of Tully, where things of great importance happen with little to no consequence that it feels like narrative contrivance and supposed magical script wizardry writ large.
There are no spoilers here, but the denouement feels largely like it cheats the film of the grounded reality and mundanity it finds itself in, early on. It's impossible to win though, with Cody's occasionally snarky screenplay clearly mocking the perfect mothers and simultaneously bigging up those who simply accept it and get on with it (which will be a large part of the intended viewing population.)
Ultimately, Tully becomes tarred by the path it chooses - that it does so with relative finesse for most of the journey is a good thing because when it revels in its veracity and borders closely on reality, it's a compellingly familiar watch.
It's just a real shame that Tully's divisive ending tarnishes and to a degree, belittles everything which has gone before it, slathering most of the film in a feeling that consequence is nothing but bothersome and inconsequential.