Sunday, April 07, 2019
Tully (2018 film)
Directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody, Tully is the story of a mother of three children who is overwhelmed by her maternal duties where she gains a nanny who would help as well as become her new friend. The film is an exploration of motherhood who is about to have another child as she is forced to accept the idea of needing help as she would end up gaining more. Starring Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass, and Ron Livingston. Tully is a charming and heartfelt film from Jason Reitman.
The film follows a mother who becomes overwhelmed with her maternal duties after the birth of her child as she hires a night-nanny from the advice of her brother as the nanny would eventually make things better. It’s a film with a simple premise as it’s more of a study of a woman who has an unplanned third pregnancy as already being a parent of two adolescents is becoming stressful. Diablo Cody’s screenplay follows the life of Marlo Moreau (Charlize Theron) who is seen heavily pregnant and dealing with her two older kids with husband Drew (Ron Livingston) who is working and does what he can to help out. Marlo’s wealthy brother Craig (Mark Duplass) who wants to help his sister out by giving her a number for a night-nanny as he has one for his kids though Drew believes it isn’t a good idea due to money issues.
It is at a moment of desperation where the film’s titular character (Mackenzie Davis) arrives as she would be this beacon of light for Marlo as the two also become friends. While Cody’s script doesn’t have much plot for much of the film’s second and third act, it does provide these moments that allows Marlo to find some joy again as a mother but also bring back some spark into her romantic time with Drew. The film also feature these elements of dreams as it relates to Marlo often dreaming underwater images as it adds to this sense of freedom that she is craving for.
Jason Reitman’s direction is largely simple in its approach to compositions as it doesn’t bear much style throughout the film. Shot largely on location in Vancouver as a New York City suburb with one major sequence in the third act shot in New York City. Reitman doesn’t go for a lot of wide shots in the film in favor of presenting an intimacy to showcase a housewife/mother struggling to take care of three kids as her son is dealing with behavioral issues that might suggest some form of autism. Reitman’s direction does have some stylistic moments such as a scene in a car that is presented in one take that plays into Marlo’s own frustrations and exhaustion as the camera is inside the car. The scenes with Tully are light-hearted in its approach to drama as Reitman chooses to use close-ups and medium shots to play into this growing friendship between Marlo and Tully.
The film would feature these brief moments of surrealism as it relates to the dreams that Marlo is having as it relates to a mermaid swimming underwater as it would be referenced during the course of the film. Even as it would play more into Marlo’s psyche during the third act as well as this air of surrealism as well as the realism into what Marlo is dealing with as a mother. Particularly as Drew is not around enough or is oblivious to what is happening as he’s only met Tully once as it adds to the intrigue of the story as it relates to Marlo’s own state early in the film. Overall, Reitman crafts a riveting and somber film about a mother of three kids who receives help and a jolt of life from a mysterious night-nanny.
Cinematographer Eric Steelberg does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it’s largely straightforward with its greyish look for some of the daytime exteriors as well as low-key lights for the interior scenes at night at Marlo’s home. Editor Stefan Grube does brilliant work with the editing as it includes some montages of Marlo’s daily routine and a scene where Marlo and Tully drive towards Brooklyn while listening to Cyndi Lauper while much of the editing is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts. Production designer Anastasia Masaro, with set decorators Louise Roper and Karin Wiesel Holmes plus art directors Craig Humphries and Maki Takenouchi, does fantastic work with the look of the home that Marlo and Drew live with the kids as the home that Craig lives in. Costume designer Aiesha Li does terrific work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward to play into the ragged look of Marlo as well as a somewhat-youthful look of Tully.
Special makeup effects supervisor Nicholas Podbrey does nice work with the look of some of the prosthetics that Marlo has during her pregnancy as well as a few mysterious things in the film. Visual effects supervisor Dave Morley does superb work with the visual effects as it relates to the dream that Marlo would have. Sound editors Perry Robertson and Scott Sanders do amazing work with the sound in capturing the sparse and low-key sounds at Marlo’s home as well as some raucous scenes at a few parties and clubs that Marlo and Tully would go to.
The film’s music by Rob Simonsen does wonderful work with the music with its mixture of ambient and indie-electric folk based guitars to play into some of the drama while music supervisor Tricia Halloran creates a wide array of music that features many artists/acts from different genres such as the Velvet Underground, Cyndi Lauper, the Bill Evans Trio, the Spinanes, A Tribe Called Quest, the Jayhawks, Ronnie Foster, Rufus Wainwright, Beulahbelle, Janine the Machine, Shannon and the Clams, Last Legion, Girl Band, and Hamilton Leithauser with Rostam Batmanglij.
The film’s incredible cast feature some notable small roles from Gameela Wright as a school principal, Stormy Ent as a young night-nanny working for Craig in Shasta, Maddie Dixon-Poirier and Bella Star Choy as Craig’s daughters, Colleen Wheeler as Dr. Smythe who is worried about Marlo’s health, Elaine Tan as Craig’s wife Elyse, and the duo of Lia Frankland and Asher Miles Fallica in their respective role as Drew and Marlo’s kids in Sarah and Jonah with the former being the oldest who is trying to find her own identity while being critical of herself while the latter is a young boy struggling with behavioral issues as he screams and kicks only to later find some form of solace. Mark Duplass is superb as Marlo’s brother Craig as a wealthy man who is offering to help out as he would give Marlo a number to get herself a night-nanny where he also expresses concern that Drew doesn’t like him.
Ron Livingston is excellent as Marlo’s husband Drew as a husband who is often away for work as he tries to help out focusing mainly on Sarah while is often unaware of what is going on at times where he would escape by playing video games. Mackenzie Davis is amazing as the titular character as a young night-nanny who helps Marlo out with the new baby as well as to get her to relax as she is also this offbeat and lively individual who helps bring out the best in Marlo while also being very coy about herself. Finally, there’s Charlize Theron in a phenomenal performance as Marlo Moreau as a 40-something mother of three who just gave birth to a newborn baby girl as she is tired from her maternal duties where Theron displays that anguish and weariness mothers go through but also display a determination and liveliness as it’s one of Theron’s finest performances to date.
Tully is a sensational film from Jason Reitman that features great performances from Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis. Along with its supporting cast, superb music soundtrack, and engrossing themes about the struggles of motherhood thanks in part to Diablo Cody’s thoughtful screenplay. It’s a film that explores a woman trying to be a good mom as she deals with the overwhelming duties of motherhood where she would get help from a mysterious yet kind young woman. In the end, Tully is a phenomenal film from Jason Reitman.
Jason Reitman Films: Thank You for Smoking - Juno - Up in the Air - Young Adult - Labor Day - (Men, Women, & Children) – (The Front Runner) - The Auteurs #30: Jason Reitman
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