This had not been an especially good year so far for big, mainstream films. With
the exception of
Black Panther, almost nothing has emerged that
could be an Oscar contender or possible top 10 film list film.
Most of the big releases seem like they were made to provide instant action
footage for trailers or sell toys rather than tell a good story (Although
showed that these goals are not mutually exclusive.)
One of the few exceptions is Tully, which is anchored by an explosive lead
performance by Charlize Theron and a surprisingly smarter than average script
that takes the viewer on a surprise filled emotional roller coaster ride.
Tully is a powerful melodrama (or is that dramedy?) about postpartum depression
(or post pregnancy depression). The film was directed by the talented Jason
Reitman and scripted by the popular, Diablo Cody who wrote a successful blog
which eventually morphed into a surprisingly entertaining bio, Candy Girl: A
Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper (2005).
This is the fourth collaboration between Cody and Reitman and the two have good
chemistry between them. They collaborated on the wonderfully witty Juno (2007),
the ambitious misfire, Jennifer’s Body (2009) and the engrossing Young Adult
(2011). Reitman uses using many handheld shots in enclosed spaces. This makes
the films conversation seem constricted and they give many scenes a documentary
The African born actress, Charlize Theron, has played memorable roles in Monster
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). She also previously
teamed up with Reitman to do Young Adult (2011). She even did an excellent job
in Atomic Blonde (2017) a film I felt lukewarm about. She distinguishes herself
in the lead role of Marlo an understandably moody wife who is about to give
The former bone thin model, Theron, is not afraid to takes risks for roles, and
she gained over 50 pounds to make this film. In a recent USA Today interview,
Theron asserted that her strict mac & cheese diet which caused her to gain
weight for the film caused her to be severely depressed in real life. In some
ways this is also a body horror film. At dinner one evening, Marlo’s perplexed
daughter Sarah awkwardly asks, “Mom, what’s wrong with your body?”
Marlo is married to a decent guy, Drew (Ron Livingston) who loves killing
zombies in video games but he seems mostly unaware of her immense suffering.
There may be reasons for her to be concerned.
She had a full tilt breakdown during a previous breakdown after a birth and her
son, Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), has severe behavior problems and her keeps
getting in trouble at school. In addition to the family troubles (she might have
to find her son a new school) she is also suffering from a severe case of sleep
So it does not seem totally unreasonable when Drew’s brother suggests they hire
a helper to assist Marlo with the little things. The couple ends up hiring Tully
(memorably played Mackenzie Davis): a young, flakey, free spirited, spontaneous
and sexy young woman who seems to represent the way Marlo used to be. Tully also
seems to have an uncanny almost supernatural ability to anticipate her client’s
There also seems to be some sexual chemistry at work between the mysterious
Tully and the husband next door, Drew. Then just when you think you are walking
into a by the numbers nanny from hell scenario (like 1992's The Hand that Rocks
the Cradle), the film goes in a completely different and totally fascinating
direction. To say more would ruin the many surprises in the film.
All this leads to an initially confusing but extremely poetic dream sequence
that serves as the film’s big payoff. I’m not how sure how well this film will
age, but on its first viewing it struck me as psychologically sophisticated,
mesmerizing and memorable.