Tully will no doubt aggravate many, but Jason Reitman once again delivers domestic drama at the highest level
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The partnership of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody is one that works because they share the natural instinct to get underneath their characters and turn them into everyday heroes. They partnered on Juno (2007) and again on Young Adult (2011), which also stars Charlize Theron. In both films, they treated very real issues with a bit of whimsy and a bit of elegance, but never lost that human touch. Tully, their latest collaboration, carries on in their grand tradition.
The movie is very much a one-woman show, with Theron playing Marlo, a mum of two with an unplanned third on the way. Her younger son, Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), is a behavioural deviant and may soon be dismissed from kindergarten. Her older daughter questions everything. Every day Marlo does the mothering while her husband, Drew (a terrific Ron Livingston), supplements his working days with video-gaming nights. Now a third child has arrived and it seems like her world has become a top spun upside-down. Help must come!
And come it does, in the stunning shape of Mackenzie Davis, who plays the night nanny, Tully. Tully is young and beautiful, with a keen sense about human feelings. It’s like she knows at once how to fix problems you didn’t even know were there. She strides into Marlo’s life and takes the reins, caring for the baby, baking cupcakes, cleaning the house, giving Marlo much needed breathing space. She even offers to help out in the bedroom. Things pick up. Drew grows closer. Dinners are actually cooked. And then…
Well, I won’t spoil what happens. Tully has a twist, which you will either see coming or despise if you don’t. Or both. Many will say it’s a twist that’s been done before in greater films, but I believe neither Cody, the writer, nor Reitman, the director, feels cheaply about the decision. Could the film have benefited from an alternative? Perhaps. There are always ways to work around obstacles. But because Marlo is so spectacularly herself, it is the fitting, logical call.
Reitman’s films have a way of establishing themselves firmly in a world that looks and feels right. He also seems to possess a natural relationship with Theron, who is given two notes to play (manic and exhausted) but somehow makes Marlo a robust, fully empathetic matriarch. Davis, too, is supremely effective as Tully and has many more strings to play, all of which she does with the tenderness of a maestro. I said the movie is a one-woman show, which it is, except when Marlo and Tully share the screen and completely absorb us in their chemistry. There’s not a lot that goes on here, but the little that does takes us right into the heart of a well-formulated screenplay and a cast of outstanding performers.
Tully is available in Australian cinemas from May 17
Image courtesy of Studiocanal