TULLY
(***½)
"...many scenes have a documentary like authenticity"

Mesmerizing Tale of Postpartum Depression

(051918) 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 Black Panther 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 like authenticity.

The African born actress, Charlize Theron, has played memorable roles in Monster (2000) and 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 birth.

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 deprivation.

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 needs.

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.
 

Directed by:  Jason Reitman
Written by:  Screenplay by Diablo Cody
Starring:   Charlize Theron, Ron Livingston and Mackenzie Davis
Released:  050418
Length: 96 minutes
Rating:   Rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org

TULLY ©  2018 Bron Studios
Review © 2018 Alternate Reality, Inc.