REVIEW: “TULLY” (2018) Focus Features

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Let me preface this review by noting about the two previous films by the writing/directing duo of Ivan Reitman & Diablo Cody. “JUNO” – which I loved, and “YOUNG ADULT” – which I didn’t love so much. This is number three, and while I respect both of them, unless they were trying to make one of the most depressing movies about motherhood I’ve seen in sometime – I’m rolling with a great big WHAT? WENT? ON? HERE?

I realize many other critics are really liking this film so let me try to explain this as I saw it. “TULLY” centers around Charlize Theron as Marlo, a mother of two – soon to be three kids – who has to balance caring for them to the detriment of her own personal life and emotional well being. Marlo’s husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), is the epitome of the hands-off parent, either on the road for work or zoning out while playing video games in bed. Elsewhere, Marlo’s wealthy brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), and sister-in-law, Elyse (Elaine Tan), represent clichés of an equally deliberate kind – you know the type – that annoying couple that can afford to bypass parenting altogether because they can afford to. But then it’s Craig who provides his Marlo with the services of a night nanny (yes, it’s the first we’ve all heard of this type of job) Tully (Mackenzie Davis), and once Tully enters Marlo’s life, her world becomes magically better and the film’s secondary characters fade into the background and remain there. Tully is charming, but her relentless cheeriness and boundless compassion for Marlo belies something strange about her identity in the fact that she may, quite literally, be too good to be true. And this too-good-too-be-true nanny works tirelessly to shake Marlo out of her postpartum depression, Reitman begins to introduce magical-realist elements into the film—a nighttime excursion into the city, an somewhat amusing yet possibly one of the most uncomfortable bathroom breast-milk dumping scenes in film to date, that take us in his deliriously exhausted, weird lead character mindset.

Getting us to question the veracity of Tully’s existence is gimmicky enough, and then its resorts to using an overplayed and contrived narrative device to explain Tully’s inevitable departure from Marlo’s life. This my friends is the twist to the movie. Mercifully, the moment is matter-of-fact almost to the point that it doesn’t count as a “gotcha!” thing, but it still rankles. In the homestretch, the film unearths a number of issues that put us in the position of questioning the rejuvenated Marlo’s ability to be a good mother in the first place. But somehow addressing these concerns is avoided, sweeping them under the rug to clear the path for a happy ending that, as a result of such evasion, registers only as unintentionally disconcerting and giving me a huge disconnect to the entire film I just watched. It’s an unfortunate misstep in a film that initially suggests it’s a comedy – but with only a few sarcastic comedy jumps here and there – it’s again, mostly an almost tragically depressing drama.

I went to far as to asking some of the people that clapped after the film ended, what they saw that I might have missed. Turns out they were just clapping for clapping’s sake. As for performances, I did like Charlize quite a bit, and as a fan of Mackenzie Davis, she too excelled somewhat for me, even though in their whole parts together, they didn’t seem a great fit. Everyone else just seemed an after thought once the two leads took over. I didn’t hate this movie, I just truly had no idea what was going on as it didn’t seem to want to tell me. It just wanted to depress me. It’s also one I never want to watch again.

Grade: D+
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Thursday, April 26, 2018 ~ Courtesy of the PGA
“TULLY” WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE ON FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2018 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE TO FOLLOW MAY 2018

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12 thoughts on “REVIEW: “TULLY” (2018) Focus Features

  1. Thanks for the review. I’ve enjoyed Jason Reitman’s work, even Labor Day, so think there’s a chance I’d like Tully. Theron was good in Young Adult, and seems to be the case again here. Diablo Cody is talented but hasn’t exactly been the talk of the town of late. Tully sounds kind of like Reitman/Cody took the motherhood theme from Juno and the feisty Mavis Gary character from Young Adult and meshed the two 🙂

    • I really respect and like both of them a lot. Love Charlize – and yes, you are on the right track of noting that they meshed the two. It was just so oddly done for me. Again, critics everywhere are loving it.. I just found it odd and very depressing. But good acting by the two leads.

  2. 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 been embraced so warmly by critics. I was less enthused than most.

  3. In fact, I do know people who have employed a night nurse and it absolute the greatest cheat and gift a new parent can give themselves, holy moly!

  4. Peggy, we share a similar taste when it comes to films. I also greatly disliked “Tully” for all the reasons you mention and more. Happy to see that I’m not alone here.

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