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Movie Review: "Tully" Is Jack's Sense of Post-Partum Psychosis (And It's A Masterpiece) MAJOR SPOILER WARNING

Starring Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass, Ron Livingston
Written by Diablo Cody
Directed by Jason Reitman

Reviewed by Patrick Gibbs

 Out of Four

Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody are back in top form with Tully,  which tells the story of Marlo, a struggling mother of two children, who is pregnant with an unplanned third child. Jonah, her son, has a developmental disorder that doctors have been unable to diagnose. When Marlo and her husband Drew visit her wealthy brother (Mark Duplass) for dinner, he offers to pay for a night nanny as a baby shower gift, but Marlo rebuffs him.

Marlo gives birth to a daughter she names Mia, and quickly becomes overwhelmed and exhausted. After Jonah’s principal recommends that he be placed in a different school, Marlo breaks down, and she retrieves the contact information for the night nanny.

"We're here to pump you up!"
Image Courtesy Focus Features

That night, Marlo is visited by Tully, the night nanny. Despite an initial awkwardness, Marlo and Tully develop a close friendship over the course of several nights. Tully proves to be an exceptional nanny, cleaning the house and baking cupcakes for Jonah’s class.  The two women form an almost unnatural bond, and Tully is taking care of Marlo as much as she is taking care of the baby.

The Oscar worthy lead performance from Theron is enough reason to see this film, but frankly I'd watch the enchanting Mackenzie Davis in anything. But Cody's bitingly witty script (which never feels forced or untrue in it's dialogue) and Reitman's masterful direction combine for a one-two knockout punch. See this movie, right away.

Now, then, all that being said . . .


Tully is essentially the female version of 1999's cult classic Fight Club in the sense that Tully is not real. She is a figment of Marlo's imagination ala Tyler Durden. It's impossible, and frankly wrong, to ignore that film in discussing Tully, so much so that it's going to miss out on well deserved major awards consideration because of conflicted feelings about the similarity (combined with controversy about the portrayal of mental health issues, with the most vociferous detractors as usual being those who are refusing to even see it.)  However, Cody and Reitman have not just given us a female take on Fight Club, they have given us the grown up version. Fight Club is a stylistic and stylish work of pop art, and it is a real mind job. But it's not a particularly deep, meaningful film, though it felt like it when we were all young men in our 20's. It's cool and clever and very well done, maybe even a great film. But it's an also a tad on the immature side and so testosterone heavy that film revels in its own machismo while making fun of it at the same time. It's a great movie. But Tully is a powerful and insightful film.

Image Courtesy Focus Features

The dynamic between Marlo and Tully, who represents Marlo's younger self, is both profoundly sad and beautiful, even joyous in it's conclusion that who we were in always there inside who we are now. It is deeply respectful of motherhood without being afraid to show that it comes at a cost that those of us who don't experience it can't ever fully understand. If you are a mother, it will likely effect you. If you have ever had a mother, by all rights it should knock you on your butt.

In may ways this is more a defence of Tully than it is a review, hence the spoliers.  I am reading a lot of trash talk that simply doesn't ring true to me. I deeply respect and believe in the need for sensitive and real portrayals on mental illness on film (I cannot abide junk like Split.). But for one, Tully is a sensitive portrayal that does find joy in life but does not glamorize the illness, and if we are to become so concerned that art cannot deal with sensitive subject for fear that not everyone will agree with the portrayal (or that someone might be offended), we will have to stop creating art altogether, and that will be a terrible day.

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