Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.
Director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody proved to be a formidable team right off the bat with their 2007 collaboration Juno. The film was a critical and box-office success, eventually earning four Oscar nominations with Cody being awarded the prize for best original screenplay. They reteamed a few years later for Young Adult, a film that earned critical praise, but failed to make much of a dent in that year’s box office. Now the pair has reunited again, along with Young Adult star Charlize Theron, for Tully, another blend of comedy and drama that focuses its sights on the challenges of motherhood.
Theron plays Marlo, the mother of two with the third on the way any day as the film opens. She is already struggling with the challenge of balancing all her motherly duties and that challenge will only be amplified when the new baby arrives. In an effort to help, Marlo’s brother offers her the gift of a night nanny, a woman who comes into the house and takes care of the baby throughout the night so that the mother can get a full night’s sleep. At first, Marlo resists, but when she reaches a breaking point, she pulls out that nanny’s phone number and decides that it is worth a shot.
The film then introduces us to its title character, a kind young woman who arrives at the house just before bedtime and leaves early in the morning, taking complete care of the baby throughout the night, waking Marlo only when it is time to feed. That first night is an eye-opener for Marlo, who feels more refreshed the next morning than she has in years. She also begins to form a bond with Tully, a woman who reminds her a lot of herself when she was younger. Tully’s entrance into her life has been the best possible thing for Marlo, but unfortunately some great things cannot last forever.
Not being a parent myself, let alone a mother, I cannot opine with any great confidence about how accurate the movie is in regards to the daily challenges that mothers face, but my guess would be that it is pretty much on the nose. Diablo Cody has two children herself, so she has written the script from a place of personal knowledge and nearly everything that happens in the movie feels completely authentic, with some exaggeration for comic effect, of course. As such, this movie will most likely connect the most with parents who have experienced the many struggles the movie depicts.
That is not to say that non-parents won’t find anything to enjoy in the movie, though. Just like Reitman and Cody’s previous collaborations, the movie is quite humorous. And parent or not, almost everyone in the audience should be able to relate to some of the film’s experiences, such as being obviously judged to your face by others or having people try so hard to tell you something without hurting your feelings that it only makes it hurt worse.
The movie also packs a few surprises. Events happen in the middle of the film that feel somewhat awkward and out-of-place, but the movie wraps up in a way that all these moments suddenly make sense. Mostly, that is, as the film’s obsession with mermaids still has me trying to figure out their meaning within the story days later. But that’s on me.
Tully is a well-made, enjoyable movie that will certainly have a different effect on audiences depending on what experiences they bring into the film themselves. For my money, it is my favorite Reitman and Cody collaboration since Juno and the director’s best film since Up in the Air.
Tully opens today at the AMC Kent Station 14, the AMC Southcenter 16, the Century Federal Way, and Regal’s The Landing 14.