Tully is an interesting flick, apart from becoming gradually sillier from about the halfway point onwards.
The film focuses on the maternal woes of a New York mum (or ‘mom’ in the Yankee argot), and is relatable for those in the audience who have, or currently do, raise tots – a life choice that can be simultaneously a joy and purgatory within one high chair sitting.
We open with a heavily gravid Marlo (Charlize Theron, who incidentally piled on appreciable tonnage for the role) vainly combating the exhausting and humdrum tribulations of all late third trimester mothers.
Her dilemma is not assisted by her amiable, yet inexpert, hubby Drew (Ron Livingston), a man who himself appears to be suffering the enervating effects of an abysmal and thankless workplace.
He spends an inordinate amount of time fiddling on computer games in his bedroom. He’s not a nappy kinda guy, in keeping with much of his gender.
Marlo lurches about the house trying to control her irritatingly contemporary tacker son, whose Berserker behaviour has him running amok on some neurological spectrum or other, a syndrome that, in days of old, was diagnosed as a spoiled brat.
The new baby arrives and things worsen significantly for the beset Marlo. Lack of sleep is a factor and maybe even a spot postpartum depression is stirring.
One staccato domestic sequence of the overwrought mother goose racing about attempting to cope with the numerous irksome tasks of tending to rug-rats, is perhaps the most prescient vignette in the entire motion picture.
It’s soon as plain as a stain on a dawn diaper that the exasperated matriarch will be in the laughing academy faster than a projectile vomit unless something is done.
Worried about his deteriorating sis going nursery nuts, Marlo’s wealthy and risibly avant-garde brother Craig (Mark Duplass) talks her into letting him pay for a night nanny. She reluctantly accepts, seemingly concerned her true credentials as a faltering mom may be laid bare.
Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis), the angelic and mysterious earth mother, peacemaker and endless fount of postnatal solutions.
Tully becomes a nightly breath of fresh air in the household, removing the stresses and chores that are slowly driving Marlo bonkers. Indeed, things appear to be returning to normal thanks to this thoroughly modern and competent nursemaid taking care of business.
The two become besties and Tully seems too wonderful to be real. Maybe she is.
Yet here things become a bit far-fetched in what, up until this point, has been a relatively believable modern tale.
Case in point. At one unconvincing juncture, noting the pathetic moribund state of Marlo’s and Drew’s love life, Tully, wildly veering outside her job description, selflessly leads Marlo upstairs for a ménage à trios with Drew.
Now, this may be commonplace boudoir bonkery in the iniquitous bungalows of Hollywood, but is less likely a scenario in a drab middle-class satellite suburb of New York – but perhaps this is just being naive.
Initially startled, Drew, a man accustomed to twiddling his PlayStation of an eve, hurls marital monogamy to the liberating winds and it’s on for the audacious trio. The encounter puts a sparkle in the morning mood and it seems Tully has even cured the age-old conjugal sexual malaise.
She’s a wonder worker!
Later Marlo and Tully become so chummy they decide to shake off the tedious bonds of the housebound, plus the usual and partner issues, and head out for a spontaneous night in the bars and clubs of Brooklyn, Marlo’s old stomping ground.
They drink and make merry and, just to recap Marlo’s protracted postnatal condition and elevated boob psi, Tully deftly assists her express milk in the dingy loo at a club.
The same night Tully tells Marlo she must leave her service, giving no reason (one senses some dark secrets), and the squiffy duo angrily part ways on those mean streets. Things go a pear shaped from here on in and lead on to a rather baffling and indecisive finale.
Despite being unconvincing in parts (particularly the final third) Tully has some witty lines and is well acted by all the cast. The originality of the premise also deserves a thumbs up; this is not Tinseltown formulaic fodder by any means.
Director Jason Reitman does a commendable job adapting Diablo Cody’s script, and the film effectively explores some genuine issues faced by mothers undergoing one of life’s toughest assignments – bearing and raising little tikes.
It’s pretty hard to sully Tully; it will keep you questioning to the end. But whether you get an answer or not poses another question in itself.
Probably not the most heartening picture for expecting mothers, but one that will definitely induce a smug sense of empathy, not to mention relief, in those who have already been there, done that.
Now showing at Luna Leederville.
Watch the trailer…