Plot: Marlo (Charlize Theron) is about to have her third child and at forty, this wasn’t a situation she expected to find herself in. While she loves her family, to say she feels stressed out about her life is a vast understatement and things will only get more stressful with a new child in the house. Her young son struggles with behavioral issues that result in Marlo feeling helpless, while her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) means well, but is distant and travels a lot. As she went through some mental health issues in the past, her brother sees a chance to help and offers to hire a night nanny, to ease the stress and let Marlo get good sleep. At first she resists, but soon agrees and finds herself in a unique friendship with the nanny, Tully (Mackenzie Davis).
Entertainment Value: Tully deals with some intense, important topics, but doesn’t sacrifice entertainment or depth to do so, delivering a masterful movie that stays in your mind long after the credits. I have read some complaints that the movie doesn’t handle post partum mental health issues as well as it could, but to me, it mirrors real life in that way, as so many of those issues go without diagnosis or proper treatment. So perhaps the movie could have steered things in a more productive angle when it comes to those mental health concerns, Tully remains a natural, believable experience, at least in most scenes. I do think the script gets a little heavy handed toward the finale, but it wants to push a message and it makes sure that point is hit hard. On the whole however, the movie is captivating and has just enough comic magic to spice up the real life feel, while keeping it grounded. I also appreciate how well Tully is able to balance drama and comic elements, both of which are effective and bolster each other, which is no simple task to say the least. And the few times the movie does break from the grounded approach, it has just enough surreal presence for those scenes to work, though again, I wasn’t bowled over by the finale. Even so, Tully is a masterful movie that has a great pace, interesting narrative, and terrific performances.
The movie as a whole as great, but the performance of Charlize Theron is what drives the experience. She gained fifty pounds for the lead role and turns in one of her best efforts, which given her impressive resume is no small compliment. I know the praise of someone “disappearing into a role” is used too often, but this is a case where it is more than valid. Theron simply nails the part and is believable in every moment, from depressing moments to pure drama to humor to surreal turns, never missing a beat along the path. If you’re a fan of Theron or great acting in general, her performance alone warrants giving a Tully a spin. Mackenzie Davis is also good as the quirky nanny that spirits into Marlo’s life, while Ron Livingston and Mark Duplass have solid, prominent supporting roles. So while I can see why some criticisms were raised for some of the narrative elements, I think Tully is a fantastic movie and Theron is brilliant here, highly recommended.