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Tuesday, May 08, 2018


Tully has three acts that are all like different films. The first act is effective birth control, as it shows the horrors and drudgery of a pregnant woman (Charlize Theron) who already has two kids. One of them is a kindergartner who is repeatedly referred to as "quirky." (The words autism or Asperger's are never mentioned, but that would seem to be the case). The film opens with Theron brushing him to calm him down.

This continues after she gives birth, when she has post-partum depression (she had pre-partum depression, too). Her husband (Ron Livingston) is a nice guy but useless, as his routine, Theron says, is to come home from work, kill zombies, and pass out.

During this act we meet Theron's rich brother (Mark Duplass), who suggests she get a night nanny--a person who will watch the kids while the parents sleep. Theron's middle class world is contrasted with that of her brother's, which is perfect and well-managed. A daughter's talent for the talent show is pilates, for example. That his wife is Asian seems to be pushing it into stereotype.

Theron finally gets the night nanny, the title character, (Mackenzie Davis), and we're into act two, which might be described as new-age Mary Poppins. Davis is young and thin and a free spirit who knows facts about all sorts of things and presents philosophical questions, such as since all our cells die and are replaced, are we the same person as we once were? She cleans the house spic-and-span and makes cupcakes and one can imagine that she did float in with an umbrella.

During this act, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when it does, it thumps very loudly. The two women, who have bonded, go out for a night on the town. We get a twist ending that I didn't see coming--if you want to see this film, do it before it's spoiled for you, because it will make you reevaluate everything you've seen before. There's some controversy about it, and reasonable people can disagree whether it works--you either buy it or you don't. I did, because without it things don't make sense. It does introduce plot holes, but it's only a movie.

Tully was written by Diablo Cody, who has popped out three kids since she struck gold with Juno over ten years ago. It was directed by Jason Reitman. Both of them have curbed some of the preciousness of their previous work, and Tully is gritty and painful at times.

The best thing about it is the performance of Theron, who deglams and convinced me that she was a working class mom and not an internationally famous model/actress. A scene in which she removes a stained top, revealing her stomach after giving birth, prompting her daughter to ask, "Mom, what's wrong with your body?" is sure to get recognition laughs from any women who have given birth. Theron reportedly put on fifty pounds for the role (plus effective prosthetics) but more than her physical transformation, it's the deadness in her eyes, the casual refusal to hold her baby in the hospital, the anger at a nurse waiting for her to pee, that crystallize the difficulties that go along with childbirth.

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