‘Tully’: Diablo Cody delivers Charlize Theron the character of a lifetime
In 2007, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody teamed up for the first time to make a film about a pregnant 16-year-old named Juno. Juno would go on to win Cody an Oscar and begin her now decade-plus working relationship with Reitman. Four years later, the duo brought fellow Oscar-winner Charlize Theron into the fold with 2011’s Young Adult. And now most recently, the trio reunited for Tully. Another dramedy from Reitman & Cody, Tully explores the difficulties of motherhood as experienced by Marlo (Theron) and her newfound perspective on life thanks to a young but wise night nanny named Tully (Mackenzie Davis).
Pregnant and about to pop with her third child, Marlo struggles to balance a life consumed by her atypical son, absent husband (Ron Livingston), and rich brother (Mark Duplass). One night while at her brother’s home for dinner, he offers her the gift of paying for a night nanny. Although initially stubborn to the gesture, after a number of sleepless nights changing diapers and breastfeeding, Marlo concedes. After her kids and husband go to bed the next night, Marlo answers a knock at the door. Expecting an older maternal woman, Marlo is surprised to meet Tully – a beautiful free spirit in her twenties. Once Tully enters her life, Marlo not only finds a new friend and confidante, but also a guide in helping her address the more personal issues lurking beyond the crying baby.
Highlighting the real hardships that come with motherhood (no sleep, no free time, no unstained clothing), Reitman displays the maternal hysteria exceptionally through a series of sharply-edited montages that build to Marlo’s breaking point. Cody’s experience as a mother bleeds through the page even more so than her teen angst did in Juno, and from there Theron grabs the reins in her impeccable portrayal of a mother trying to do it all while barely holding everything together.
Displayed throughout the true-to-life script – Cody’s best work since Juno – Tully is about coping. Whether it’s dealing with motherhood, middle age, marriage, or life simply not going the direction you had dreamed it would, Tully is a masterclass in writing, direction, and performance. The film relates to and rewards the viewer in a number of ways, one specifically being the numerous reasons to hold off on having children. It sort of serves as visual birth control. Where Juno tackled the topic of a child opting into an incredibly mature situation and Young Adult portrayed an adult refusing to grow up, Tully is about tackling life’s issues and learning to ask for help in a world that constantly holds women to the highest of expectations.