Film Review: Tully

Reuniting the main players from Young Adult (producer/director Jason Reitman, producer/writer Diablo Cody and producer/star Charlize Theron), Tully is an intimate study of motherhood and the horrors of growing up that manages to be deeply felt, desperately funny and just ever so slightly controversial.

Aspects of the plot have naturally been discussed somewhat furiously online, but don’t listen to the haters, the spoilers and the mansplainers and make up your own mind.

40ish New York State native Marlo (Charlize) has two young children — shy Sarah (Lia Frankland) and challenging Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) — and is nine months pregnant with another. She’s totally over it too, and the first third or so here features Theron (who put on 50 pounds for the part and as a result experienced depression for the first time) at her very best and almost too good in her quietly vivid portrayal of exhaustion, desperation and a kind of deadened hysteria. No wonder her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is worried about her — but, then again, he’s too knackered to do much about it too.

Marlo’s all-too-perfect brother Craig (Mark Duplass) and his irksomely Earth-Mother-ish wife Elyse (Elaine Tan) suggest that Marlo enjoy the services of a ‘night nanny’ like they have, and they agree to pay for one too (money here is more of an issue than it is in some movies, but not as much as it is in real life). After Theron has given birth to baby Mia and dominated the narrative so much that you wonder why this isn’t titled Marlo, the nanny turns up in the form of Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a free-spirited 20-something who looks after the little one throughout the night and lets Marlo sleep, meaning that soon she starts looking more like, well, Charlize Theron.

What could have been a scary psychodrama (like The Hand That Rocks The Cradle) or a saucy European comedy (where Tully winds up getting off with one or both parents) instead becomes all about the growing bond between the two women, as they watch crappy reality TV together, discuss Marlo’s non-existent sex life, bop to Cyndi Lauper’s greatest hits, visit a Manhattan club, thrash around to a metal band and truly open up to each other. Marlo hasn’t been this happy or close to anyone in years, and you wind up worrying that Cody and Reitman will spoil everything and pull off some corny plot twist or other and ruin it all.

A most atypical American pic in many ways (notice how the women are the focus here and, although Livinsgton and Duplass are good, the men are only there to fret over them), this is all about Theron and Davis, who work beautifully well together and should see you past the supposed script problems. And please note that it isn’t illegal for movies to demonstrate that being a Mum can be really bloody difficult.

Rated M. Tully is in cinemas now.

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