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Review: Tully

Saw Tully, the latest effort from frequent collaborators Jason Reitman (director), Diablo Cody (writer), and Charlize Theron (star), and to be perfectly frank… I don’t know how I feel about it. It’s a very challenging movie—not because it’s structurally dense, but because it’s emotionally complex and brutally honest.

Theron plays a thoroughly exhausted mother that has just given birth to her third child, and although she tries to hide it, she’s absolutely miserable. Her husband does his best to ease her workload, but he’s equally married to his demanding job, and when he finally gets home, he tends to pick up his PS4 controller and disengage from reality. On the verge of a nervous breakdown, she hires a night nanny. For a while, she enjoys the extra sleep; the longer she spends in the company of the quirky younger woman, however, the more she begins to fear that she’s losing the adventurous, fun-loving parts of her pre-married, pre-parenthood self.

I won’t spoil any of the big twists, but I will say that there’s a wide gulf between what the film wants the audience to believe it’s about and what it’s actually about. I appreciate the misdirection, and I love where the narrative eventually ends up, but the scenes bridging that gap are executed somewhat…clumsily. The word “subtlety” has never really existed in Cody’s vocabulary, and while she reigns herself in admirably, her screenplay still lacks finesse in several key areas. That said, Reitman’s direction brings out the best in her script; he’s not overly flashy, but he capably utilizes the visual language of horror cinema to create an almost subconscious sense of unease and discomfort in the viewer, reflecting the protagonist’s fragile mental state. And, of course, Theron’s raw, vulnerable performance anchors the story, lending gravity and authenticity to even the most unwieldy lines of dialogue.

Ultimately, Tully’s a decidedly mixed bag, but much like a big bowl of assorted nuts, it’s easy to ignore the bits you dislike.

[Originally written May 14, 2018.]

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