"Uplifting Ending, Marred by Gratuitous Lewd Content Elsewhere"
In the summer, it’s hard to find a movie that’s just good and warm-hearted yet very funny amid all the bombastic blockbusters out there. TULLY, the third and most successful collaboration by the writer-director team of Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman, is funny, touching, and has a thoughtful pro-family message, despite an excessive amount of strong foul language.
Reitman is a filmmaker who has built his reputation around creating emotional dramedies built on unpredictable characters in movies like JUNO, UP IN THE AIR, and MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN. In two of his movies, JUNO and the awful YOUNG ADULT, he teamed up with Diablo Cody, who inserts biting, unique dialogue into her scripts, sometimes to mixed results.
TULLY stars Charlize Theron (who also starred in YOUNG ADULT) as a married mother freed from sleep-deprived insanity by a night nanny, whose free-spirited approach to handling the mother’s newborn child lights up the entire family’s existence. As the movie opens, Marlo, a 41-year-old mother whose looks and dreams are slowly being snuffed out by the frustrations of mothering two kids while having a new child on the way, rushes to a meeting with her son Jonah’s kindergarten principal. Jonah is officially labeled “atypical,” a child with severe behavioral issues who can’t handle the myriad aspects of daily life and socialization with his peers. Marlo is told with wary politeness to find a one-on-one aide to handle her son’s issues.
When she gives birth, Marlo’s tenuous handle on her daily existence gets put to the test in a terrific montage that shows the endless cycle of diapers, breastfeeding, and interrupted sleep that any new mother endures. Her wealthy brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), offers to get her a night nanny named Tully (Mckenzie Davis), so that Marlo can finally get some sleep. Tully’s easygoing charms instantly make things better for Marlo, even though she forms an awkwardly close bond that includes watching Marlo pump milk and breastfeed her newborn child. In addition, Tully shares some details about her promiscuous lifestyle with Marlo.
The plot just seems to follow Tully and Marlo’s touching, funny friendship as it develops. As such, it displays the transformative power that comes with having just one person care enough about you to make your difficult life easier. Then, however, a rowdy night out on the town for the two new friends in Brooklyn results in a truly stunning twist. This twist changes everything about what viewers might have come to understand and expect about the storyline. The twist is brilliantly done and makes the movie even more poignant.
As the mother, Charlize Theron is a real pleasure to watch throughout TULLY. She deftly alternates between her darkly comic jabs and intensely emotional and sad moments while she expertly conveys the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion mothers can endure. It’s refreshing to see this immensely talented actress take on a humane, beautifully nuanced role after she recently used her statuesque looks and magnetic presence on ultraviolent fare such as the terrible ATOMIC BLONDE and the exciting and redemptive MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.
As her husband, Drew, Ron Livingston astutely portrays the kind of husband that’s all too common: a decent guy who doesn’t mean to be a bad partner but travels so much for work that it’s easier for him to just tune out on the subtle grind of everyday life at home by playing video games. Eventually, as his character learns to be more supportive of his wife, Livingston shines brightly with the Everyman charm he displayed way back in OFFICE SPACE, a comedy about work that’s become a cult classic over the years.
That said, Mackenzie Davis (THE MARTIAN and BLADE RUNNER 2049) is the true discovery here as Tully, a fresh face with a magical spirit who sometimes seems too good to be true. Tully displays a kind heart in an often uncaring world where simple decency to another human being changes everything. Thus, TULLY is the kind of movie that brilliantly reminds viewers that any of us can be a positive force in someone else’s life.
TULLY also has many strong and positive messages about marriage and family. For example, it shows that husbands and wives need to work closely together to survive the inevitable ups and downs of family life, and life in general. In addition, the parents in TULLY take their two older children to Catholic school. The principal at the son’s Christian kindergarten is depicted as sympathetic and caring.
Sadly, though, TULLY has lots of strong foul language, including many strong obscenities and profanities, plus some references to the nanny’s promiscuous lifestyle. Also, several times during the movie, the mother loses her patience with the world due to her sleep deprivation.
So, while TULLY has a positive uplifting ending with strong moral elements, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.
TULLY stars Charlize Theron as Marlo, a 41-year-old mother whose looks and dreams are slowly being eroded by the frustrations of mothering two children with a new child on the way. Her husband, Drew, is a decent guy, but he travels so much that he just tunes everything out when he comes home. Marlo’s wealthy brother sends her a young night nanny, Tully, to help out. Though a bit too easygoing, Tully’s simple decency toward Marlo changes everything for the family.
TULLY is a touching, well-acted, well-written comedy drama, with many funny moments. It has a positive uplifting ending containing strong moral elements supporting family and simple human decency. It shows that husbands and wives need to work closely together to navigate the inevitable ups and downs of family life. The movie’s surprising twists make the ending even more poignant. Despite all this, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for some breastfeeding nudity and too much gratuitous foul language. TULLY also contains some drunkenness, references to the nanny’s promiscuous lifestyle, and several times where the mother loses her patience due to sleep deprivation.