[Film Review] Tully (2018)

Tully poster.jpg

Title: Tully
Year: 2018
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Jason Reitman
Writer: Diablo Cody
Music: Rob Simonsen
Cinematography: Eric Steelberg
Charlize Theron
Mackenzie Davis
Ron Livingston
Asher Miles Fallica
Lia Franland
Mark Duplass
Elaine Tan
Tattiawna Jones
Gameela Wright
Joshua Pak
Stormy Ent
Rating: 7.2/10

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After his one-two punch Oscar contenders JUNO (2007) and UP IN THE AIR (2009), Jason Reitman has racked up 4 Oscar nominations (including two for the prestigious BEST DIRECTOR laurels) by the age of 33, far runs rings around his father, Hollywood journeyman Ivan Reitman. However, the honeymoon period end precipitously, YOUNG ADULT (2011) can still keep its head above water, but the absolutely abysmal reception from both LABOR DAY (2013) and MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN (2014), keeps prompting cineastes that head-scratching question: what has happened to this America’s boy genius?

Here comes TULLY, the second collaboration between him, Diablo Cody (writer of JUNO) and Charlize Theron, the triangle force spearheading YOUNG ADULT. Theron plays Marlo Moreau, a 40-ish mother-of-three, enmeshed in the toil of child-bearing and stricken with postpartum stress after her recent parturition. Out of blue, her life miraculously gets a new lease from a nocturnal baby-minder, the titular Tully (Davis), a modern Mary Poppin materializes only at night to bring her life back on track, but Reitman keeps nudging us that something is amiss, not least that weird threesome with Drew (Livingston), Marlo’s shiftless husband.

The husband, under such circumstances, is often prone to receive the short end of the stick, and for the sake of accomplishing the story’s central subterfuge, it seems that Reitman and Cody has no option but to shoehorn Drew as a cavalier father who promptly snuggles into bed every night before 10:30 to play video games, regardless of a worn-out wife lingering downstairs (or curiously enough to check on the night nanny), thus secures the requisite that he never meets Tully without Marlo’s presence (at least to audience’s reception), as a result, he is portrayed as a character error on the side of insouciance and insensitivity, but Cody’s script is too sober to demonize this male prototype – yes even his fetish is old-fashion and squeaky-proper, a 50s diner waitress uniform – also by virtue of Ron Livingston’s hangdog amicability, a thorny gender politics doesn’t go off the rail.

A spitfire Charlize Theron undertakes an even more eye-popping physical transmogrification than her Oscar-bagging turn in MONSTER (2003), reportedly putting on an elephantine 50 pounds and often slouching miserably and frustratedly in the incarnation of the most horrific nightmare, that could ever happen to any nubile girls craving for motherhood down the line, c’est la vie, behind our over-populated planet, there are gazillions of suffering mothers, taking it on themselves to the albatross diurnally, one must gives the film its credit to flag up the epidemic whose clinical diagnosis still remains moot in practice.

Theron sheds every single molecule of celebrity glamor to inhabit Marlo’s lifelikeness with gusto and agency, stimulatingly connects with a feisty Mackenzie Davis, to pull the wool over viewers’ eyes, there is sparkling frankness in their self-reflective inspection about a woman’s choice of their other half and what fulfillment means, nothing too progressive (especially gauged by Cody’s more liberal bent), yet it is somewhat therapeutic, as the ending cunningly hints.

Out of its run-of-the-mill contemporary milieu, Reitman stages a fantastical coup-de-maître with Marlo’s figment where a mermaid swimming against a cerulean palette, which pays off in the money shot when the whole Marlo-Tully interrelationship reaches its breaking point, although it is a bit too corny to achieve that through a DUI car accident, the bottom line is: Reitman finally bottoms out, with his Hugh Jackman’s star vehicle THE FRONT RUNNER (2018) on the horizon, one might safely hazard, the prodigal son (almost) returns.

referential entries: Jason Reitman’s YOUNG ADULT (2011, 6.8/10), JUNO (2007, 8.3/10).

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