Motherhood, From Breakfast to Breakdown: A Review of "Tully"
When we look at the Hollywood treatments of Motherhood and Domesticity, and/or the concept of the surrogate mother, they’re filled with clichés. So we can be grateful that Tully finds an interesting middle ground, and offers us something realistic, and yet ripe with drama and comedy. Directed by Jason Reitman and written by Cody Diablo, this is their fourth collaboration, after the likes of Juno and Young Adult.
Let’s examine those clichés; for motherhood it would either be the greatest thing a woman can experience in life; or at the opposite spectrum, how it can be such a drudge, every mother needs to make that great escape or even have an extra-marital affair. For the surrogate mom theme, opposite ends would be represented by Mary Poppins on one hand, and Nanny McPhee on the other. Tully tackles both themes—middle-aged motherhood, and hiring a night nanny. But it’s in how dramatic tension and smart comedic moments are realised that makes this film such a joy to watch.
Marlo (Charlize Theron) is heavy with her third child when the film opens. She has an underachieving, perpetually distracted husband (Ron Livingston), and a ‘rich asshole’ brother (Mark Duplass) who makes the offer to pay for a night nanny. After Mia is born, we share with Marlo the frustrations of being a full time mom, and sympathize when, in a moment of sheer frustration, she calls for that Nanny and Tully (Mackenzie Davis) arrives that very night. Miracle-worker, soulmate, and what have you; Tully is a prayer answered.
Charlize Theron is astounding in this film, taking on a role that while very different, reminds us of why she copped an Oscar in 2004 for Monster. She de-glams, she shows us warts and all, curses with the best, and throws out quippy one-liners. It’s a portrayal that keeps us glued to the screen. Kudos to Mackenzie Davis for similarly making such a strong impression as Tully; she’s earnest yet weird, and when the great reveal comes at the end of the film, we look back, and realise just how well the screenplay contained elements of foreshadowing. And equally, how Davis played the marks to give us hints and portents.
With most of the film’s of the past months either dealing with horror or superheroes, it’s refreshing to have a thinking person’s film such as Tully. It’s a throwback to those days when a strong story, and great acting, were more than enough to make a film a worthy watch!