Chemistry is very important in Hollywood. Audiences want to see sparks on the screen. They want to feel a connection to the material that is put forth. Sometimes the chemistry is between actors like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall or Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Other times it is between the director and actor like John Ford and John Wayne or Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro. In TULLY it is between the Director Jason Reitman and Screenwriter Diablo Cody. They had 2 previous winning collaborations in “Juno” and “Young Adult”. Both had sharp dialogue and confident direction. The words and image beautifully flowed together. TULLY is another winning effort that will keep audiences talking long after the credits are over.
TULLY stars Charlize Theron as Marlo, an overwhelmed mother of two who has another child on the way. Her oldest child is Sarah (Lia Frankland), an inquisitive child who is wise beyond her years. The middle child is Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), a boy who teeters on the spectrum and is a handful with his outbursts and behavior. Marlo already has her hands full with these two and a third one will cause even more stress. She has routine visits with the principal about Jonah’s behavior. They don’t feel like they can handle him one on one.
Marlo eventually delivers a healthy girl, but she has some health problems after the delivery. In her family, Marlo has a rich brother named Craig (Mark Duplass) who is married to Elyse (Elaine Tan). They too have three children. To help with things at the house, they hired a night nanny who can take care of things at night while giving the mother some much needed sleep. Craig recommends to Marlo that she gets one and offers to pay for it. Marlo at first is aghast with the suggestion. She doesn’t want anyone else raising her children. Marlo’s husband is Drew (Ron Livingstone). Drew is a dutiful husband and father, but he is a bit distant. He helps with the homework and brings home the paycheck. The marriage though has hit a stale patch. There is no passion anymore especially after the baby’s arrival. Drew puts on his headphones at night and plays his video games. Marlo is stuck with caring for the baby and its frequent crying during the night.
Cody and Reitman do a great job at portraying how a mother can get into a monotonous routine. Each day and night just blends together. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Marlo gets less and less sleep. She nurses her child, makes the formula and even puts her on the washing machine to see if that gets her to sleep. All the while Marlo has to deal with her other two children and their issues. Jonah tests her patience every day with wanting to eat the same food or kicking her driver’s seat or yelling at Marlo to park in a full parking lot when another parking lot is available. Marlo finally reaches her breaking point.
Marlo takes up her brother’s offer and hires the night nanny. Her name is Tully (Mackenzie Davis) and she comes with unbridled enthusiasm and optimism. Tully helps Marlo with her baby and starts helping her with her life. They start bonding and Marlo’s spirits start to perk up. Cody’s screenplay is always present. Her dialogue is incisive and to the point. You feel Marlo’s helplessness with her situation. You understand when Marlo curses at the principal for not wanting to take on the challenges of Jonah anymore. You also see the small moments like when Marlo and her brother talk about life and the upcoming issues Marlo might face with the new child. Marlo cuts off her brother when he brings up her past issues. You feel the bond between the two siblings and that they have been through a lot together.
The ending of TULLY will no doubt be controversial and something to talk about for a long time. At first I did not know how I felt about it. After some contemplation, I think it does work and it isn’t showy or gimmicky. TULLY is a solid movie with sharp writing and excellent performances by everyone involved. I think it delves deep into the difficulties of motherhood and what women go through after the birth. It also says a lot about marriages and how they can become a bit rote and routine and you do have to spice it up at times. This is another good collaboration between Reitman and Cody.
Video: It was shot well with nice lighting and various shades to reflect the mood of Marlo.
Audio: The sound was generally solid. I did have to put on the closed captioning for some of the dialogue though.
The Relationships of Tully (10:00): The director and actors discuss the film and what it meant to them.