by George Wolf
The character Tully doesn’t show up ’til nearly 40 minutes in, but by then the film Tully has its anchor: a sensational Charlize Theron.
The Oscar-winner excels as Marlo, an exhausted, frazzled mom in dire need of a break. Marlo and her inattentive husband Drew (Ron Livingston) already have a young daughter, a younger son with some behavior issues, and now (surprise!) a brand new baby girl.
Lucky for Marlo, she’s also got a rich brother (Mark Duplass) whose baby gift is a “night nanny” named Tully (Halt and Catch Fire‘s Mackenzie Davis – a keeper). Once Tully shows up, Marlo can get what every new parent craves…sleep.
After two winners together in Juno and the criminally ignored Young Adult, writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman make their third collaboration a wonderfully natural extension of the first two.
Cody is a gifted writer, her dialogue often insightful without preaching and timely without pandering. Here she creates two characters whose unlikely friendship speaks to the changing roles women will play throughout their lives, and the heartache those changes can sometimes bring.
That being said, it’s hard to imagine the film working as well as it does without Theron. She makes Marlo’s every emotion feel real, and the character absolutely human even when Cody’s script takes some chances not all will appreciate.
Reitman, back in form after the dreadful Men, Women & Children, also helps in that department, keeping the film grounded in a world many will recognize. This isn’t the heartwarming comedy the TV ads want you to think it is, nor is it the casual dismissal of postpartum depression that others have charged.
It is one woman’s story, with moments of humor, absurdity and truth, a bit of cliche and even some fairy tale optimism. And with all of that, there’s enough brash boundary pushing to make Tully feel like a film we haven’t seen before, and one we’re glad that’s here.