Marlo (Charlize Theron) hadn't planned on another child at forty. Her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is a great guy who helps eight-year-old Sarah (Lia Frankland) and special needs five-year-old Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) with their homework, but a recent promotion has increased his workload and he zones out at night playing video games. Exhausted in her eighth month, Marlo fields economically unrealistic suggestions from Jonah's principal, intrusive comments from strangers and oneupmanship from her sister-in-law Elyse (Elaine Tan), but after giving birth to Mia, she breaks down and accepts her wealthy brother Craig's (Mark Duplass) offer of a night nanny, a godsend named "Tully."
Laura's Review: B
Wisely reteaming with his "Juno" and "Young Adult" screenwriter Diablo Cody after two misfires in a row, director Jason Reitman returns to form with an intense study of the overwhelming experience of motherhood. Theron, who gained almost forty pounds for the role, conveys the utter exhaustion and physical toll of childbirth and child care with numb perseverance, love drowning in the chaos of breast milk stains and stationary Lego assaults. Cody, who wrote the script after giving birth to her own third child, has a surprising twist in store, though, one which equates motherhood with female mid-life crisis. Reitman gets us into Marlo's head space with early mises en scène that invite both laughter and sympathy like a zoned out Marlo slumped on a kitchen chair, her two children at the table as a glass of milk is knocked over. A montage cut to the beat of a bedside lamp's on/off switch encapsulates constant, repetitive chores. The house is a mess of scattered toys and laundry, dingy carpets and sticky floors. Sarah must be accompanied by her inhaler, hyperactive Jonah curried like a horse to calm his undiagnosed condition. When Marlo tells her husband they're going to her brother's for dinner, he's not enthused, convinced that Craig despises him. The far wealthier Craig and Elyse shuffle their kids off to join their cousins under a nanny's supervision (the nanny immediately terrifies Jonah with tales of corporate chicken farming, a sinister byproduct of such arrangements left without comment). When Craig pulls Marlo aside to make his offer, she cannot conceive of it for multiple reasons. Then, two weeks after Mia's arrival, Jonah's principal informs her the 'quirky' child will only succeed at the school, one he's attending because of Craig's donor status, with a daily one-on-one aide. Marlo has a profane meltdown. At home, she picks up the phone, the card Craig's slipped her in her hand. Tully ('Halt and Catch Fire's' Mackenzie Davis) isn't at all what Marlo expected, the bright-eyed twenty-six year-old immediately taking charge. She shows genuine interest in what Marlo is watching (a gigolo reality show) and coos over Mia. Marlo reluctantly climbs the stairs to bed. When she awakens, Tully is gone and her house is spotless. We begin to see a change in Marlo. She's rested, cheerful. She enjoys her time with Tully, some shared sangria turning to talk of sex and Drew's needs. Tully presses for his turn ons and her unconventional Mary Poppins acquires a new role. Then, after convincing Marlo they've earned a night out in the city, Tully informs Marlo it's time for her to go. Marlo has a difficult time dealing with this. While Davis offers the perfect counterbalance to Theron, Tully's kind energetic efficiency gradually restoring Marlo's flagging spirit, this is first and foremost a vehicle for Theron. It's difficult to imagine this film without her, so completely has she given herself over to the role. If I hadn't known better, I'd have been convinced the actress had recently given birth herself, like Tilda Swinton's unabashed postnatal exposure in 1999's "The War Zone." Reitman and Cody both give us the information to figure out their game plan and manipulate it enough to suggest other, more sinister scenarios. Thankfully, they leave us in a place of profound contentment, itching to watch "Tully" again with what we now know. Grade:
Robin's Review: DNS