Thursday, May 3, 2018

Theron’s Oscar-worthy performance in ‘Tully’ is profound character study

By Steve Crum
Tully, not to be confused with 2016’s Sully, is not about a near air disaster. But the dramedy IS about a youngish married woman whose personal life flaunts disaster. Charlize Theron’s portrayal of the troubled spirit is nothing short of brilliant, and certainly Oscar worthy.  Adding Diablo Cody’s screenplay (she also wrote 2007’s Juno) and Jason Reitman’s direction equals a trifecta supreme. 
This is not discounting the impressive work of Mackenzie Davis in the title role, and the credible acting of everyone else in the small cast. That includes some fine turns by the main two child actors, Asher Miles Fallica and Lia Frankland.
Do you get the idea Tully bowled me over, critic-wise? Definitely. I even loved Rob Simonsen’s score, punctuated by covers of pop hits over the last 40+ years. “You Only Live Twice,” the James Bond/Nancy Sinatra hit, is not only well performed (by an unknown singer), but has a purposeful meaning for its inclusion. (You will figure it out when the movie ends.) 
Before that occurs, there is an unfolding domestic story that begins with wife and mother Marlo (Charlize Theron) on the verge of having her third child. (The dedicated Theron gained nearly 50 pounds for the role!) We witness her daily struggle familiar to anyone who has simultaneously dealt with late stage pregnancy, getting two youngsters off to school, trying to be a good wife, and being the proverbial chief cook and bottle washer. Factor in a mostly distant, non-helpful, arrested development husband, Drew (Ron Livingston). Then there is her kindergartener son, Jonah (Fallica), who is being expelled from school due to his behavior disorders. It is overwhelming for Marlo, and uncomfortable to witness. 
The first half of the movie has a documentary look, with dominant use of the hand-held camera. But the technique segues into more traditional visuals as the story takes on a mysterious, somewhat disjointed aura. But, as we learn, there is reason for this shift.
Realize that there are many laughs throughout Tully, due to Marlo’s blatantly honest and often crude remarks. This is testament to the wit of screenwriter Cody. It reflects Marlo’s way of coping. 
Things change for the better when Marlo’s wealthy brother (Mark Duplass) hires a night nanny, Tully, to help relieve the overnight stress of getting up to feed the baby. Tully even neatens up the house and makes treats for the kids. When the baby needs feeding in the middle of the night, Tully brings the child to Marlo at bedside, happily observing the breast feeding. If this seems uncomfortably odd, it is. Yet Marlo and Tully’s bond grows increasingly close. I have to interject that Tully is not a horror movie, even though that admission might be construed as a spoiler. 
“The 30’s come around the corner like a garbage truck,” laments Marlo during the third act. That telling quotation epitomizes the core spirit of Tully. During the finale, when Marlo and Tully literally race (by car and bicycle) toward the past, we realize a dangerously brittle state of depression. 
The plot has a huge twist to it, a profoundly huge twist. Consider this 96 minute gem as viewing well spent. 

GRADE on an A-F Scale: A


  1. Hello,

    Lia Frankland is the actress that plays Charlize's daughter in the film, not Maddie Dixon. Both actresses are great, but would love if you could update the review to read that Lia plays Sarah.

    Thank you!

  2. Got it! And thank you VERY much for the correction. I appreciate it.

  3. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good work... Oscars 2019 time