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Tully review - Charlize Theron plumps for sentiment | reviews, news & interviews

Tully review - Charlize Theron plumps for sentiment

Tully review - Charlize Theron plumps for sentiment

Fiery motherhood movie from Jason Reitman ends up opting for fantasy

Charlize Theron and Asher Miles Fallica in 'Tully'

Inside Tully – or maybe inside Charlize Theron’s massively pregnant belly – is a darker, more daring film trying to get out.

There are startlingly original moments, but it’s as if writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, creators of Juno and Young Adult, chickened out in the end and plumped for whimsy and sentiment.

Marlo (Theron) is swamped by pregnancy and motherhood. She and her lacklustre husband Drew (a mumbling Ron Livingston) have two kids aged eight and five already, and now they’re expecting a third. Possibly not a good plan. Unplanned, in fact. “I feel like a trash barge,” she tells her brother (Mark Duplass) and his wife, whose lives, with their well-behaved kids and nannies, are designer-perfect. “His factory setting is asshole” is her assessment of her brother, though this seems an empty quip as he makes her the generous, un-asshole-like offer of paying for a night nanny.

Marlo and Drew live modestly in the ‘burbs near New York, though there’s an irritating lack of specificity (filming took place in Toronto). Are we in Westchester? New Jersey? Park Slope? In her younger, wilder, bisexual days Marlo lived in a loft in Bushwick; now, aged 40, she’s dragging herself through her maternity leave (Theron gained 50 pounds for the part), failing to get the kids to their trendy St Vitus Elementary School (come, on, really?) on time, dealing with her son Jonah’s severe behavioural issues (she brushes him “like a horse” to calm him at bedtime), feeling overcome with exhaustion. Drew’s out all day at work; at night he zones out in bed, headphones on, playing video games. Lovely.

When the baby’s born the film comes into its own. Theron does woman-on-the-verge masterfully. “You want a fucking golden shower?” she yells at the nurse who’s threatening her with a catheter if she doesn’t pee after childbirth. Once she’s home, things don’t improve. That hallucinatory fug of a baby’s first weeks is brilliantly captured; Reitman and Cody (she wrote Tully soon after she had her third child, so she knows whereof she speaks) orchestrate a grippingly realistic symphony of endless sleep deprivation, crying, breast-feeding and pumping, nappy changing –  if you’re not familiar with a remarkable nappy-sealing gadget called a diaper genie, you’re in for a treat – and household chaos. Even getting dressed is exhausting, says Marlo. Her only relaxation is between-feeds late-night reality TV – she’s partial to a programme called Gigolos – while munching microwaved nachos.TullyThe slipping of the fulfilled-motherhood mask is a joy to behold. The smug school head decides that Jonah (an impressive debut from five-year-old Asher Miles Fallica) is just too “quirky” to remain at St Vitus’s. Why does everyone call him quirky? asks Marlo. “Is he a fucking ukulele?” This is the real me, she tells the horrified teachers, “when I’m not licking your asshole”. There’s a lot of in-car screaming, a lot of post-partum desperation (there have been complaints about Tully’s allegedly irresponsible treatment of mental illness and motherhood) which finally leads Marlo to take up her brother’s night-nanny offer. “You Only Live Twice”, sung by Kaitlyn and Mady Dever, gives a small clue as to what lies ahead.

Enter Tully (the expressive Mackenzie Davis (pictured above), last seen in Bladerunner 2049) who makes cupcakes, cleans the kitchen and allows Marlo to sleep and “to see in colour again”. She’s a 26-year-old mystical child, prone to making such observations as “The baby will grow a little overnight. So will we” and “We need to treat your whole”, to which Marlo retorts, as she plods upstairs to bed, “No one’s treated my whole in a long time.” Soon the two women establish a firm bond. So firm that they decide to go clubbing together in Brooklyn without telling Drew. And here the film jumps the shark, leaving that wonderful gritty realism behind and opting for fantasyland. This makes for an unsatisfying, unconvincing end, where Marlo’s existential struggles are given a Hollywood glaze. There’s something flabby at the core of Tully, and strong performances from Theron and Davis can’t quite redeem it.

That hallucinatory fug of a baby’s first weeks is brilliantly captured


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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