Starring: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass
Director: Jason Reitman
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Rating: R for PG-13-level Profanity, a Wish-Fulfilling Sex Scene, and Some Nudity (Mostly Breastfeeding-Related)
Release Date: May 4, 2018
“How could anyone possibly want to be a mother?” I find myself thinking multiple times while watching Tully. Sure, kids can be bundle of joys for folks who are parentally inclined, but the purgatory of pregnancy and postpartum malaise that Charlize Theron steeps herself in conveys unequivocally the crushing sacrifices required to assemble a happy family. Now, not every mother or mother-to-be is as susceptible to depression as Theron’s Marlo is, but creating another life inside your body pretty much guarantees a transformation of your sense of personhood. So what a blessing it would be to have someone devoted to helping with that transition, and I think we can all agree that a smiling, eager Mackenzie Davis on our doorstep fits the requirements perfectly.
Davis’ titular nanny, hired to take care of Marlo’s new baby overnight so that Mom can get some much-needed sleep, shares a lot of DNA with Manic Pixie Dream Girls, that oft-bemoaned breed of rom-com stock character designed for the express purpose of making the lead character discover the joy of loving life. But the Manic Pixie Night Nanny, or at least this particular one, avoids being similarly frustrating, because taking care of all of Marlo’s needs is kind of in her job description. She comes across as a real, layered person because some people really are that expertly enthusiastic about childcare, and she is granted a life and concerns of her own outside her employment. But as Tully proves to be the most perfect nanny ever and starts to become a friend and confidante, the questions arise: just how is it possible that she is this perfect? How long can, and should, this arrangement last?
In her third collaboration with director Jason Reitman, screenwriter Diablo Cody takes plenty of piercing (but loving?) digs at the sort of suburban bougie lifestyle that accompanies the concept of a night nanny. According to Marlo’s brother Craig (Mark Duplass, so often playing the embodiment of bougie entitlement), this may be the sort of indulgence only rich assholes get to have, but at least these particular rich assholes are of the unwittingly hilarious kind. The New York crowd at my screening cracked up heartily at a dog named “Prosecco” and the reveal that an elementary school kid’s talent show talent is “Pilates.” (Distressingly, though, I was the only one laughing at a sneaky reference to a certain ’90s cartoon.)
I feel that I must now get into a spoiler alert, which I want to be careful about, because the fact that there is a spoiler alert is already a bit of a spoiler, as this is not the type of movie you would expect to have secrets that need protecting. But because of the nature of what is spoilable, it feels irresponsible not to mention that it could be traumatic to mothers who have experienced pregnancy-related mental health issues. Tully ultimately reveals itself to be a different movie than it initially appears to be – not worse, but a lot heavier. It is something I cannot get out of my head, and I think that is a good thing, as it offers an approach to certain facts of life that is well worth digesting.
Tully is Recommended If You Like: Bougie Suburban Satire (like that of Beatriz at Dinner), Young Adult, The Babadook
Grade: 4 out of 5 Milk Spills