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TULLY: An unjustly neglected gem

How many times have you been intrigued by previews only to find the film itself a total let-down?

In the case of “Tully” the previews, for once, undersell the movie.

Sure, trailers for this story of an exhausted mom look pretty appealing as is -- suggesting that script-writer Diablo Cody (“Juno”) still has her touch with character, comedy and conversation.

But the entertaining previews give no idea how smart, edgy and thought-provoking this film really is.

Charlize Theron plays Marlo, pregnant mother of a young girl and boy, the latter of whom is a little “quirky,” as everyone keeps reminding her in the most annoying fashion -- including the school principal, where this first-grader is on the brink of getting tossed out.

Marlo is cowed by her husband’s upwardly mobile brother and their seemingly perfect family. (“The ninth month is tough,” intones Marlo’s sister-in-law; “I could barely make it to the gym.”)

Marlo wants to be one of those “great moms” who “organize class parties and bake Minion cupcakes -- all the things I’m too exhausted to do.” When baby arrives and an already-distant husband gets busy at work, things spiral out of control -- at which point, Marlo decides, against her better judgment, to get a “night nanny” who will help with the newborn while Mom gets much-needed shut-eye.

Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a carefree 26-year-old who is some kind of miracle-worker. “She knew exactly what to do,” Marlo tells her husband. “Like me in bed,” he smoothly replies. “No,” quips Marlo; “she makes eye contact.”

Staying only at night-time, Tully soon begins restoring sanity to this rocky marriage and family, while also helping Marlo become the kind of wife and mom she always wanted to be. And yet … because the film’s issues are so real, so common and so authentically presented, this sudden transformation is problematic. Surely Cody does not mean to offer night-nannies as the one-stop solution to desperately tired moms and stressed-out families?

These problems become even more troubling when Tully begins urging Marlo toward some highly questionable activity. In fact, there are a couple of late scenes when the script seems about to fly right off the rails; but just stick it out. Not only does Cody know exactly what she’s doing, but also, she offers a final resolution that is both down to earth and wonderfully hopeful at the same time.

Directed by the reliable Jason Reitman (who also worked with Cody on “Juno” and “Young Adult”), “Tully” is one of those gems no one sees in the theater but which can get a second life through DVD and streaming. It has some unnecessary crude content from a reality TV show that Marlo likes; but in every other way it’s well worth watching. Put it in your queue, and hang on tight.


directed by Jason Reitman

Run time: 95 min.

* * * 1/2 (out of four)

Rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity


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