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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Review: “THE MARTIAN” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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I’ve always had mixed feelings about Director Ridley Scott and his films. Some are fantastic and some..are not. Here he is back once again to exploring a familiar territory – space.

“THE MARTIAN” truly strikes cinematic gold here with what could be looked as a quasi-instruction manual on how to survive surefire death on Mars. Though this adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel (which I haven’t yet read) is the best thing Scott has given us in quite some time, he still goes where others have gone before – only this time, with a perky, life-affirming attitude.

The concept is catchy and simple: While on a mission on Mars, a major storm hits the crew of the Ares III facility causing them to abort and head for their escape rocket. As Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain), cyber-whiz Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), flight surgeon Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan), pilot Rick Martinez (Michael Pena) and chemist Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie) head out into the vicious winds of Mars where botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by debris and disappears. The others think he’s dead and leave without him. But guess what?! He’s alive! the_martian_2
And in order to survive he must “science the shit” out of the remaining supplies in a lab that was created to last only 31 days. His wit, scientific know-how and vlogs are what sustain him until the people at NASA – including NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), mission director Dr. Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and flight director Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) – can figure out how to save him. Add in the back ground techies Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis) & Rich Purnell (Donald Glover) who literally come up with the live-saving idea that make it possible to go back and get their man!! All the while they make this trip to Mars almost scenic as you can almost feel the atmosphere while watching.
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There are shifts here between humor, heart and suspense which are all handled quite well. Plus the soundtrack..ohhh the soundtrack… with it’s precise way that it works in the disco from the made-fun-of playlist of Lewis’ – with just a sampling is “Waterloo”
(ABBA) “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (Thelma Houston) and Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn The Beat Around” – is not only truly ingenious but yes, fabulous as well. It hits all the notes at just the right moment in Watney’s journey, giving us a look into his in-the-moment feelings in a perfectly stated way.

While this film is almost all Matt Damon, his very adequate supporting cast really gives the film a huge boost..along with the fact that it engages us intellectually, but not over the top as they make it all relatable and with a dose of humour I just loved. So it makes it hard to even list the one small unfortunate thing about THE MARTIAN as it’s good..really good.. it does stop just one step short of being electrifying. And in this case..that’s still not a bad thing.

Grade: B

Screening: Monday, September 21, 2015 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide Release: Friday, October 2, 2015