Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 9, 2018)
A reunion of Juno director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, 2018’s Tully introduces us to Marlo (Charlize Theron), a middle-aged woman heavily pregnant with her third child.
After delivery, caring for three kids overwhelms Marlo, and despite resistance she agrees to take on a “night nanny” to help relieve some of the stress. Tully (Mackenzie Davis) enters the picture and leads to a variety of developments within the family.
During the film’s early moments, Tully shows reasonable promise. It portends a realistic look at motherhood in the 21st century and seems like something that might work.
Alas, Tully quickly disintegrates due to a mix of issues, one of which I can’t discuss in detail if I want to avoid spoilers. The film comes with a major twist that causes massive problems, but it doesn’t stand as the only concern here. It's a mess of a movie and it just doesn't function on most levels.
Casting Theron becomes a mistake because we know she's not the dumpy, overweight woman we see in the film. When she yells at Tully about how you can't stay hot forever, I wanted to reply "but you are still hot, Charlize! We just saw you look awesome in Atomic Blonde!"
Tully needs an actress who's not still supermodel hot "in real life" to pull off those scenes. We know "real Charlize" too well to accept Marlo’s gripes about the ways the body declines.
I would've bought Theron as an overweight middle-aged woman fine if the script didn't force her to bitch about the unforgiving nature of time on the body. Like I said, we just saw her in Atomic Blonde last year, and she didn't show those ravages there.
So I'll alter my comment somewhat to say that Theron isn't necessarily miscast for the role most of the time - it's just when she has to bitch about the "inevitability" of saggy bodies. It seems tough to swallow this when we know Theron usually has an amazing physique and she only looks the way she does in the movie because she gained a lot of pounds.
In addition, the scenes with Marlo’s son Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) frustrate the crap out of me. Anyone who knows anything about the subject realizes within 20 seconds of the kid’s introduction that he's autistic, and yet no one can figure this out, even though they've got him in a fancy private school and have allegedly taken him to multiple specialists.
That's just sloppy screenwriting. If the movie had said "the doctors suspected autism but…" and gave us some reason Jonah doesn’t qualify, then fair enough. While the movie portrays him as nearly textbook autistic, at least that'd give us an explanation.
Nope. Instead, we're supposed to believe the kid's condition is a medical mystery, even though both I knew immediately that he was on the autism spectrum.
Also, what school tells a parent to send their kid to a new facility in April? I've seen it happen for really severe cases, but not for a kid like Jonah who was getting by in his current building. That was just a cheap dramatic conceit and a way to show the kid at the new school - a scene that went nowhere, oddly enough.
Jonah meets a helpful teacher but there's no follow-up. Does this school help him? Does it have a program that fits his needs? Does the kid see a specialist?
Who knows? This becomes just another loose end in a film full of them.
Tully wants us to see it as a "realistic" portrayal of motherhood, whereas it couldn't possibly be less of one. The movie's an iffy mix of fantasy and reality that uses its "twist" as a "get out of jail free" card in an attempt to excuse all its flaws. It becomes a major disappointment.