Is “Tully” worth a date night? Yes! The movie is the third collaboration between Oscar-winning writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman. It is a beautifully drawn character study of a mother stressed by her newborn third child and the amazing night nanny who enters and vastly improves her life. Sweet, pro-family and very funny, it also delivers a stunning twist that will keep couples talking all night.
In the summer, it’s hard to find a movie that’s just good and warm-hearted yet very funny amid all the bombastic blockbusters out there. Thankfully, “Tully” is here to save the start of summer for those looking for a thoughtful date movie with a great message. Reitman is a filmmaker who has built his reputation around creating emotionally powerful dramedies built upon unpredictable characters. The audience will recognize his work in movies like “Juno,” “Up in the Air” and the vastly underrated and nearly unseen “Men, Women & Children” In two of his best films – “Juno” and “Young Adult” – he teamed with Cody, who added biting, uniquely funny dialogue to the mix with stellar results.
A perfect antidote to superhero sameness
Reitman and Cody are back together after six years apart with another winner, “Tully,” starring Charlize Theron (who starred in “Young Adult”) as a married mother. She’s freed from sleep-deprived insanity by a night nanny whose free-spirited approach to handling her newborn child lights up her entire family’s existence. It’s almost shocking that the directors released the film now, at the start of the summer season. This film a complete antidote to a month of turbocharged blockbusters in which anything resembling a relatable human being is overlooked. If you’re sick of superhero movies, run directly to any theater showing this movie.
“Tully” opens with Theron’s Marlo, a 41-year-old mom whose looks and dreams are slowly being snuffed out by the frustrations of mothering two kids and a pregnancy. Viewers see her rush to a meeting with her son Jonah’s kindergarten principal. The school officially labels Jonah as “atypical”. He’s a kid with severe behavioral issues who can’t handle myriad aspects of daily life and socialization with his peers. With wary politeness, the principle tells Marlo Marlo to find a one-on-one aide to handle his issues.
When she gives birth, endless cycles of diapers, breastfeeding and interuppted sleep test her her tenuous handle on daily existence. Her wealthy brother Craig (Mark Duplass) offers to get her a night nanny named Tully (Mckenzie Davis), whose hippie-ish charms instantly make things better even as she forms an awkwardly close bond.
The power of one person caring for another can transform a life
The plot seems to follow their touching and funny friendship. It highlights the transformative power of having just one person care enough to make your difficult life easier. But then a rowdy night on the town for the two friends in Brooklyn results in a truly stunning twist. Their night out changes everything about what we have come to understand and expect about the story line. It’s a brilliant twist that makes the film even more affecting.
Theron is a real pleasure to watch throughout the film. She deftly alternates between her darkly comic jabs and intensely emotional sad moments. Throughout the film, she expertly conveyed the exhaustion that mothers endure. It’s refreshing to see this immensely talented actress take on a humane and beautifully nuanced role. Before, the audience has known her for her statuesque looks and magnetic presence in “Atomic Blonde” and “Mad Max: Fury Road”.
As her husband, Ron Livingston astutely portrays the kind of husband that is all too common. He’s a decent guy who doesn’t mean to be a bad partner. But he travels so much for work that it’s easier to tune out on the grind of home life. As he learns to step up, he shines brightly with the charm he displayed way back in “Office Space”. That film was a cult classic that should have made him a major star.
A discovery in the making
Davis as Tully is the true discovery here. She’s a fresh face with a magical spirit who sometimes seems too good to be true. It’s easier to imagine her as Diablo’s Cody’s magnificent teen heroine Juno a decade later. She is kind heart in an often uncaring world whose simple decency to another human being changes everything.
“Tully” is the kind of movie that reminds us that any of us can be that person for someone. Hopefully, it will withstand the bombast of summer to get some loving attention of its own come Oscar season.