Tully: Filmic Birth Control
Review by Aaron Haughton
Director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) reteam with Charlize Theron in Tully, the story of a parent stretched to her limits and how she comes to embrace the messiness of life. The film is being billed as "a new grown-up comedy with their signature style of irreverence and insight", but don't be fooled by the trailers — there's very little that's funny about Tully. The film portrays the hardships of motherhood with such horrific precision that it's nearly impossible to laugh at times. The end result is a sometimes touching, often complex experience that will play like jumbled form of filmic birth control for the younger generation.
Charlize Theron throws herself into the role, gaining 50 pounds by eating loads of processed foods and sugar, which tossed her into a serious bit of depression during the film's production, something that certainly can be seen on camera. Her commitment here makes for a captivating and engaging performance as the complex character Marlo, and it marks her most memorable performance since 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road. Theron shares wonderful chemistry with her night nanny co-star Mackenzie Davis (who plays the titular Tully), who gives the film its vibrant counterpoint to Marlo's overworked and stressed mentality with her easygoing free spirit. Anytime Theron and Davis share the screen together the film becomes more joyful, lighthearted and easier to watch.
Unfortunately, Davis doesn't really enter the story early enough. Her entrance is held back until the 2nd act, which offers some much needed levity when she makes her way into the narrative, but also makes the 1st act pretty dry and painful to behold, as we're effectively planted into the chaos and difficulty of Marlo's life. However, just when the film seems to slip into a groove, it takes a weird turn at the end of the 2nd act and never really recovers, crashing and burning around the oddball narrative bend in the 3rd and final act.
Diablo Cody's screenplay seems to meander without much direction, which is the chief problem with this film. The twists she pulls here, which some may call nuance, feel very much like wrong turns, and they make the film lose its focus. The unraveling 3rd act brings some pretty lofty topics to the forefront briefly, which are swept under the rug and resolved like they're nothing at all, and it wraps everything up in a little too neat a bow. However, Tully is sprinkled with some touching moments that make the viewing easier to endure.
There's nothing impressive about Jason Reitman's direction, which consists mainly of handheld camera that, on occasion, will undercut the performances. Reitman is adequate at placing you in directly into the stresses of parenthood, which is one of the film's strong suits. However, very little of the film is visually stimulating and the cinematography here falls pretty flat. Outside of the performances, this causes engagement to rely heavily on the story, which begins to fizzle out to a flatline as it nears the end. There are a few effective montages that freshen up the story every now and again, but they're not enough to keep the ship from sinking. Luckily, the film is a lean 90 minutes and doesn't stay past its welcome.
While it might not have been intentional, Tully completes a trilogy that began with Juno and Young Adult. Each features a female protagonist at a different stage of her life, and each film explores how complicated it is to find happiness. Out of the three films, Tully may fall lowest on the list with regard to enjoyability, but still has some things to offer to the right crowd — mainly mothers. You can see the film when it makes its release on May 4th.
Rating: 1.5 frozen pizzas outta 5.
What do you think? Are you excited about Tully? Was this one of Theron's most memorable performances? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!