MaxSpace

Review: Tully

Diablo Cody and Charlize Theron get real about motherhood.

By Max Weiss | April 27, 2018, 1:09 pm

-Focus Features
MaxSpace

Review: Tully

Diablo Cody and Charlize Theron get real about motherhood.

By Max Weiss | April 27, 2018, 1:09 pm

-Focus Features

Tully, the third collaboration between screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman (and their second to star Charlize Theron), may be one of the most honest depictions of middle class motherhood ever committed to film. 

When we first meet Theron’s Marlo she is very pregnant and completely wiped out. She already has two young children—a boy and a girl—and to complicate matters, her panic-attack prone son, Jonah, seems to be somewhere on the spectrum, although his actual condition is undiagnosed (teachers euphemistically call him “quirky”). As for her easygoing husband Drew (Ron Livingston), he helps around the house, but not really? 

Honestly, I’ve met this guy before—the one who helps the kids with their homework, occasionally does the dishes, and thinks he’s some sort of hero. Mind you, Drew isn’t depicted as a bad guy—more lovably clueless. It’s Marlo who cleaves to the kind of patriarchal values that allow Drew to lie in bed and play video games while she breast feeds the baby. So yes, the baby comes—spoiler alert, it’s a girl!—and Marlo is even more exhausted, waking up several times at night to pump her breasts and breastfeed. It’s at this point that she reluctantly agrees to take up her wealthy brother (Mark Duplass) on his offer to get her a “night nanny”—i.e., a nanny who spends the night, cares for the baby, and allows Marlo to get some much-needed sleep. 

A few nights later, there’s a knock on the door and voila, it’s Tully (Mackenzie Davis), looking like she just left Coachella in a half-shirt with pink tips in her hair—beautiful, carefree, and naturally nurturing. She mothers not just the new baby, but Marlo herself—and soon enough, Marlo has more energy, and is doing things like cooking proper dinners for her family (as opposed to the frozen pizza and bowl of frozen broccoli we see her serving earlier in the film) and staying up to have girl-talk with Tully. 

At first I thought, Wait, the moral of the story is: Be rich, get a preternaturally competent night nanny, and all your problems will be solved? But Tully is much slyer and more interesting than that. As always, Cody is mining the choices and sacrifices that women make—and the old selves we leave behind to become wives and mothers. Motherhood is, in a way, a shedding of self—of your old body, your old freedom, your old dreams—but Cody suggests it’s worth the sacrifice. 

I should add that, although Tully deals with serious themes, it’s devilishly funny (in one glorious montage, Marlo tips over a container of breast milk and drops a cell phone on her baby’s head). And all hail Charlize Theron, who gives a vanity-free, deeply poignant performance as Marlo. (Remember, this is the same woman who convincingly played a glamazon assassin just a few months ago in Atomic Blonde.) All I can say is, may Theron and Cody continue to make witty and whipsmart films about complicated, flawed, and deeply relatable women going forward. Oh yeah, and that Reitman guy can come, too.

 




Meet The Author

Max Weiss is the editor-in-chief of Baltimore and a film and pop culture critic.



You May Also Like


MaxSpace

Review: Isle of Dogs

Do you love dogs? Do you love Wes Anderson? Have I got a film for you!

Arts & Culture

Baltimore on Film

Ahead of the Maryland Film Festival, Jed Dietz and Matt Porterfield discuss John Waters, movie festivals, and portraying our city on the big screen.

Arts & Culture

Carla Du Pree of CityLit Project Talks Local Literary Scene

Du Pree says one of her goals is to make literary art more inclusive and accessible to all communities.


MaxSpace

Review: I Feel Pretty

Despite its mixed message, Amy Schumer vehicle has some laughs and charm.

MaxSpace

Review: Book Club

Because seniors deserve a glossy rom-com, too.

Arts & Culture

Music Reviews: May 2018

The latest from Beach House and Caleb Stine.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Why We Work Opens at the Baltimore Museum of Industry: New BMI exhibit curated by JHU and MICA students depicts a more personal side of industry.

Port Discovery Launches $10.5 Million Campaign to Transform Exhibits: Celebrating its 20th anniversay, the children's museum aims to add new exhibit on Port of Baltimore and four-story climbing structure.

Devlon Waddell Discusses Furniture Company Knot You Vintage: The local artist and storyteller talks creativity and black entrepreneurship.

Preakness Stakeholders Eye a Move To Laurel Park: This year's spectacle at Pimlico was filled with mud, fog, a big winner, and a bigger question.

Review: Book Club: Because seniors deserve a glossy rom-com, too.