By now, it's pretty much a cliché to talk about how good Charlize Theron can be. It needs saying again, though, because in Tully, a bristly comedic drama about the lies we tell ourselves to get through our lives, she is astonishing.
Even though she has a well-meaning, ineffectual husband (Ron Livingston) and tries to pretend that everything’s all roses and sunshine, she’s coming apart at the seams. Jonah acts out and gets booted from school, meanwhile the boy’s principal wants Marlo to hire a tutor that she can’t fit into the household budget. Her rich jerkwad brother, Craig (a just-right Mark Duplass), has Marlo figured out dead to rights. Craig refers to her as a match that’s been “snuffed out.” Marlo is breaking down, and no one else but Craig spots the flashing warning signs.
Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman provide the space for Charlize Theron to deliver her most searing work since she won the Oscar for Monster.
Of course, Marlo (and the other cynics among us) might like to hate Tully, but she’s too busy cheerfully tidying up, baking cupcakes, mixing up sangria, dispensing sex advice and becoming Marlo’s confidante. “It’s like I can see color again,” Marlo says of Tully's influence. It's a line which nails one of the movie’s big ideas: that motherhood—which everyone here talks about as a “blessing”—can also be draining, messy and stultifying. Theron shows it in every scene; she’s exhausted, played-out brutal, incisive, un-Hollywood, and she’s brilliant.
The trailer makes Tully look snarky and hip, which is fine if it helps sell tickets. After all, that once was Cody’s—and Reitman's—cinematic brand. Cody's gift for mocking absurdity remains strong and stinging, but she’s also grown into a much bigger, more humanistic talent. Likewise, Reitman has not only found his footing again as a director but also reveals himself as a richer, more mature and humane director than before. These two need to keep working together at every possible opportunity because Tully is their trickiest, boldest, most tender and ambitious collaboration to date, especially when it takes a left turn and moves into fantasy.
During the movie’s second half, the characters—and we, the audience—get taken down twisty, unexpected roads that deepen what we’ve already seen, and intensify the truth-telling exponentially. Cody and Reitman provide the space for Theron to deliver her most searing work since she won the Oscar for Monster. Tully is exhilarating stuff.
- Charlize Theron delivers
- Might not be what you're expecting from the trailer