Tully

tullySTARS3I do consider myself a bit of a cinematic egghead. I don’t go into any film uninformed. I was excited to see Tully. Apparently I was alone. This picture barely made more than $3 million this weekend. I can understand why. It’s the summer and people want to see fun flicks. Avengers: Infinity War is at the top of everyone’s must-see list. Still, I was pretty excited for this. This is the seventh directorial feature from the son of director Ivan Reitman. I only make reference to Jason’s father because Ghostbusters is still one of my favorites. It is in no way to negate the younger’s contributions to cinema. Jason Reitman is no slouch. He established himself to the masses with Juno. He also directed a movie in 2011 I quite liked called Young Adult and it is that achievement on which I was reflecting when entering the theater to see this. Reitman is once again working with screenwriter Diablo Cody and actress Charlize Theron. I had very high expectations. Though this effort is admirable, they sadly weren’t met.

Tully is first and foremost a chronicle about motherhood. Not the glowing profile of a parent’s unconditional love for her children as reflected through rose-colored glasses. This is the difficult somewhat frustrating version that most real-world mothers know to be true. Charlize Theron is Marlo, a mom who has just given birth to her third child. Theron is a gorgeous actress. She looks as beautiful as anyone on this planet. She has been a brand ambassador for Christian Dior as recently as 2016. That is as good a validation of one’s physical beauty as any I suppose.  Yet Theron delights in making herself ugly. Doing so won her an Oscar in the 2003 film Monster where she portrayed a serial killer. Here, she is embodying a mom in all of its unfettered ugliness. That means we get to see the realities of motherhood: the weight gain, the sleepless nights, the breast pump issues. Her son Jonah appears to exhibit signs of autism, although that word is never uttered. He’s merely “quirky”. Marlo accidentally drops a cell phone on her newborn’s head. She is notified of his cries at all hours through a baby monitor. She walks away from an open bag of breast milk — only to then watch it topple over and spill out all over the counter. These scenes were all shown in the trailer so you potentially have already witnessed the highlights.

The saga concerns a somewhat inept mother who is given the “gift” of a night nanny (Mackenzie Davis) by her affluent brother Craig (Mark Duplass). Mackenzie Davis is a spirited vision as the titular nanny. Tully succeeds is no small part due to her charismatic performance.  Craig sees her struggling and he wishes to help his sister through the difficult early months following the birth of her newly born third child. Her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is no help at all.  He is a reactionary creation out of a 1950s melodrama — a wholly unbelievable personality. Drew almost exists as a separate entity from Marlo and as the narrative develops you’ll grow to understand why.  By day he is focused on work and by night he is seen playing video games on their bedroom TV.  In another era, he would have been depicted preoccupied with his head buried in a newspaper.  With regard to his fatherly duties, he is perfectly unsupportive. Set in the conservative past this construct might seem acceptable but in 2018 it seems like an entirely fanciful fabrication. In other areas, Tully attempts to mine humor out of the bougie mentality of her brother Craig and his wife Elyse (Elaine Tan). The problem here is that they are genuinely trying to help her out, so if you find them ridiculous (as Diablo Cody ostensibly wrote them to be) perhaps you simply find helpful people laughable. Diablo Cody does find Marlo and her struggle to be a mother worthy of our sympathy so that’s nice.

Tully is Mary Poppins for Generation X. For awhile the tale is kind of uplifting. The skill with which director Jason Reitman can bring a screenplay to the screen is never in question. However, acclaim must also go to cinematographer Eric Steelberg (500 Days of Summer) for basking Reitman’s work in the shadowy hues of a twilight glow. There is one moment where the girls venture into Manhattan for a girls’ night out of drinking.  The soundtrack literally samples the sum total of Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual album from 1983. In that singular moment director Jason Reitman is specifically speaking to millions of kids born in the 1960s and 1970s that are now having kids of their own (Charlize Theron was born in 1975 incidentally). At that moment I thought this is a great film. I enjoyed the camaraderie of Tully and Marlo.  Then there’s a twist.  It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone familiar with a now well regarded 90s classic. I’ll remain vague because I won’t spoil the “surprise”. It’s a whimsical choice that belies a lack of faith in its own established premise. The story could have simply existed as originally presented without silly tricks. Tully is still fairly enjoyable. The narrative will undoubtedly speak to the millions of women that struggle with postpartum depression. It should strike a chord with certain viewers. That is if they ever actually see this movie.

05-03-18

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16 Responses to “Tully”

  1. It was ok. Too many motherly issues I didn’t care to see. Not really a fan. I was into it at times, but the ending was meh. 2 1/2 stars

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So many reviewers like this one.. I did not. It was just weird and soooo depressing for me. How it’s listed as a comedy – I still don’t understand as a few sarcastic quips here and there doesn’t cover that genre for me. Yet, I did like the acting. And I asked people who clapped at my screening afterwards what they liked because I thought I was missing something.. they didn’t really have a reason. That scene you mention in the club – i honestly thought that was going to go a REALLY wrong way in the bathroom for a minute..whew that it didn’t. hahahahah

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can totally appreciate your reaction. I was engaged in Marlo’s plight enough to give the film a “pass”. I thought the women had a nice camaraderie. However, you’re correct. The portrait of motherhood is extremely depressing and the “twist” was just silly. I can understand your dislike of the film. I’m surprised it has received such warm reviews.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Tully is Mary Poppins for Generation X.” YES! Well said.

    Apparently, this movie is getting a lot of backlash in the mommy blogosphere. It’s kind of silly really. I covered it in my post on Tully if you want to check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. smilingldsgirl Says:

    Yeah I was loving this film for the first hour. It felt like an honest and real depiction of motherhood that many women could relate to. Unfortunately the twist was a real letdown and didnt work for me

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is one of those films that got critical acclaim but audiences have largely hated. Kind of like the director’s previous effort Young Adult. Enjoyed that. Didn’t really care for this.

      Like

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I still like this better than Young Adult but the ending was a real bummer for me

        Like

  5. Just when I was beginning to think that I was the lone dissenter when it comes to “Tully,” these reader comments have made me realize that I am not alone. Didn’t like this film at all. The “gotcha!” ending was borderline insulting to those who suffer from depression.

    Like

  6. Happy to disagree with you on this one Mark. Its slow box-office is because the trailer is so cliched and corny, whereas the film is secretly a comic-serious case study in post-natal psychosis. It is one of the most original films out there right now and I gave it 9 out of 10, which for me is a big hit.

    Like

  7. The Reviewer Says:

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the film. I quite enjoyed it, but can see that the ending would not work for everyone.

    Like

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