An ultra-candid modern version of Mary Poppins of some sort, Tully explores the sleep-depriving, draining ‘joy’ of motherhood through the brutally honest depiction of the life of Marlo (Charlize Theron), a struggling mother of 3 in desperate need of help.
While her 2 older kids already suck most of her energy, Marlo is gradually overtaken by postpartum depression after giving birth to her third child. Utterly oblivious, her husband Drew (Ron Livingston), comes home from work every single day believing his wife is handling the situation perfectly and that he, for his part, is doing ‘his best’. One day, a young and perky woman named Tully (Mackenzie Davis), hired by Marlo’s rich brother, knocks on their door. She’s here to help Marlo with her children and, most importantly, give her the space and time to reconnect with herself.
Uniquely and brutally truthful
Third collaboration between screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman (after Juno and Young Adult), Tully is unsurprisingly not your usual comedy-drama about family. With Charlize Theron (proving once again that she’s able to morph into pretty much anything) in the lead role, the film is carried by the refreshing, eye-opening frankness exuding from Cody’s blunt writing.
By “trying to make a movie that confronts, head on, the secret anguish of motherhood” with “a voice that is much more raw and direct,” the free-spirited writer “hits a note of naked truth.” “Clever, subversive, and entertaining,” but not “a particularly sweet film,” Tully is “abrasive, and it should be.” It has “a message to deliver, which is as sincere and decent as it is obvious.”
Theron stands out through her boldness
In addition to being an “intriguing, effective and engaging drama,” the movie is also “funny and exceptionally well-acted.” Showing that “she’s one of the most versatile and nuanced performers working today,” Theron gives a “fearless, emotionally raw, and physically intense” performance, “lashing out in ways both big and small” while delivering “dialogue that carries that Diablo Cody snap.”
The actress “is at her best, giving a rich and meaningful performance, and Mackenzie Davis matches her well.” “Ms. Davis is a sparky, charismatic performer, and, much like her character, she wooshes into the story, infusing it with energy and scattering good vibes like a punk Tinker Bell.” The 2 of them definitely “make a pleasurable, watchable pair.”
Yet, a piece is missing
While “Theron’s performance is something to see,” there is “an earnest soft-headedness to Tully.” At its worst, the film “does check off some familiar boxes” (girls bonding clichés, beautiful metaphors, predictable behavior,…) and often voluntarily reduces “personalities to a set of readily defines traits and quirks.”
Ultimately, Reitman and Cody’s “strategy proves more audacious than it is convincing.” Tully “has its heart (and many other things) in the right place, but by the end you wish it had an imagination finely executed enough to match its empathy.”
Best quotes from the reviews:
“Offhand, it would be hard to think of another movie that dug into the messy, overwhelming, how-the-hell-am-I-gonna-go-through-this? aspects of motherhood the way that this one does.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“Tully reinvents a familiar type of story, hitting all the old beats and somehow emerging with a different rhythm.” – William Bibbiani, IGN
“A tragedy that thinks it’s a heartfelt comedy.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times