Film Review: ‘Tully’ Touches the Heartstrings with Charlize Theron’s Moving Turn

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Not sure if Jason Reitman has been this attuned to the pulse of culture with his newest film “Tully” since his Oscar-nominated “Up in the Air.”  A sensitive look into the identity of motherhood has never been this suitable since “Stepmom” nearly 20 years ago.  Scribe Diablo Cody in many ways has demonstrated her most mature sensibilities as a writer yet.  Partnered with another powerhouse performance by Academy Award winner Charlize Theron, who worked once before on Reitman and Cody’s “Young Adult,” the mojo and groove seem to be back in this touching tale that will garner both laughs and tears.

Tully,” tells the story of Marlo (Theron), a mother of three who hires a night nanny named Tully (Mackenzie Davis) to help with her newborn baby.  Together, the two begin to learn and support one another through this trying time in their lives.

The weight of the film’s success is richly laid upon the shoulders of Charlize Theron, who continues to get better as her career continues to progress.  Her interpretation of this broken down woman seems to echo the feelings of many that we know in our own lives.  She conveys those inherent difficulties that a woman faces as she tries to hold onto any semblance of her former self.  Her quirky rhythms partnered with Cody’s whimsical dialogue equate to a real emotional and glossy wallop.

In Cody’s construction of the world that Marlo lives, she lays a sturdy enough foundation for the story to build upon but admittedly by the end credits; we are unsure if she’s truly earned the messaging that Marlo is portraying.  Mackenzie Davis‘ carefree interpretation of Tully has plenty to be impressed with, but there does seem to be a one-dimensional quality that is cast upon the viewer by end credits.  Mark Duplass‘ both engaged and unengaged father is a genuine version that isn’t explored upon too often, but you can’t help but wish more was there to interest us.

Though Reitman’s previous efforts like “Labor Day” and “Men, Women, and Children” have been misfires with critics, he has solidified his aesthetic responsiveness to the medium, giving a gloss by cinematographer Eric Steelberg that is composed brilliantly.  I hope there’s more exploration of these worlds and stories he’s choosing to tell.  The light-hearted fantasies of life seem to be where he lives the best. Continue down that path Mr. Reitman.

“Tully” is well worth the price of admission, taking in its outlook on motherhood.  It’s also well timed with the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday and will bring more appreciation for the people in your life that you both undervalue and underappreciate.

“Tully” is distributed by Focus Features and is currently in theaters.

GRADE: (★★★)

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Clayton Davis--prolific writer and autism awareness advocate of Puerto Rican and Black descent, known for his relentless passion, dedication, and unique aptitude. Over the course of a decade, he has been criticizing both film and television extensively. To date, he has been either featured or quoted in an array of prominent outlets, including but not limited to The New York Times, CNN.com, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter. Growing up in the Bronx, Clayton’s avid interest in the movie world began the moment he first watched "Dead Poets Society” at just five years of age. While he struggled in English class all throughout grade school, he dived head first into writing, ultimately taking those insufficiencies and transforming them into ardent writings pertaining to all things film, television, and most importantly, the Academy Awards. In addition to crafting a collection of short stories that give a voice to films that haven’t made it to the silver screen, Clayton currently serves as the Founding Editor of AwardsCircuit.com. He also holds active voting membership at various esteemed organizations, such as the Broadcast Film Critics Association, Broadcast Television Journalists Association, African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, Black Reel Awards, and International Press Academy. Furthermore, Clayton obtained his B.A. degree in American Studies and Communications.