As in Juno, Tully gives a wholly unsentimental, un-Hollywoodised approach to motherhood. Where the former focused on a teenage girl’s unwanted pregnancy, here we see Charlize Theron’s Marlo struggle to cope with the demands of raising an unplanned newborn, as well as her two trying children. On the surface, there’s nothing especially difficult in Marlo’s life — she and her loving, if slightly dopey husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), seem to have a comfortable existence.
But this is precisely the point. Cody’s stories don’t look to extremes, but shed light on the accumulation of small challenges that real people face on a day-to-day basis. Theron, for all her movie star glamour, reportedly put on 50lbs to look the part of a regular – if still impossibly beautiful – mother of three. Meanwhile Livingston has carved a career out of being a dependable 'everyman'.
The opening scenes introduce the relentlessness of parenthood; midnight feeds, meetings with the principal, and mounting chores eventually take their toll. After one particularly tantrum-filled car journey – think the start of Saving Private Ryan translated into a school run – Marlo finally decides to swallow her pride and accept her wealthy brother’s (Mark Duplass) offer to pay for a night nanny to help around the house.
Enter Tully. Mackenzie Davis (Black Mirror, The Martian), wide-eyed and smiley, is the latest Manic Pixie Dreamgirl to take to our screens. Kooky, warm and blindly optimistic, she is basically Zooey Deschanel’s Jess from New Girl as Mary Poppins. Sending Marlo for some well-needed sleep, Tully spends the night making the house spotless, picking flowers and baking cupcakes. Far from usurping Marlo – which is the direction a lesser film might’ve gone in – the two women become close friends. They get drunk, pull pranks but, most importantly, confide in one another. It’s clear that though Marlo loves her family, she sees her life as being defined by unfulfilled potential. Tully is a gateway back to her youth – a girl’s night on the town in New York yields moments of great humour and profound poignancy.
Here lies Cody and Reitman’s real talent: that ability to fuse vulgarity, satire (the jokes at the expense of the achingly bourgeois lifestyle of Marlo’s brother and sister-in-law are especially great) and slapstick with scenes tinged with emotional sensitivity and, at times, outright sadness.
Superb acting, big laughs and understated drama. What more could we possibly want as an audience? A tonally-incoherent twist ending that wouldn’t be out of place in a psychological thriller, apparently. It’s certainly surprising, but only because we’re not looking to be surprised in this way by comedies. I won’t spoil the twist for you, but it might just spoil your final impression of the film.
|What||Tully film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
04 May 18 – 04 May 19, TIMES VARY
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more information|