When you put Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody and Charlize Theron together, something magical happens. It did with the Cody-penned, Reitman-directed ‘Young Adult’, a biting comedy starring Theron as a vicious-but-unsuccessful writer. And it’s happened again with ‘Tully’, a major movie about motherhood, in which Cody’s signature sarcasm has deepened into anxiety, exhaustion and wisdom.
Marlo (Theron at her rawest and funniest) is a heavily pregnant suburbanite who seems near-broken by her two children. She’s fallen into the kind of bone-deep resignation that, in a killer bit of physical humour, has her soaked by an exploded bottle of fizzy drink and then take her shirt off at the dinner table rather than clean it up. The baby’s arrival doesn’t help, but then her wealthy brother gifts her the services of a ‘night nanny’ who shows up in the sparkling form of 26-year-old Tully (Mackenzie Davis, who should be a huge star), who’s eerily intuitive to Marlo’s needs. ‘You’re the baby,’ Tully tells her, ushering her off to her first night’s sleep in weeks.
Leaning into the performances, Reitman develops their relationship beyond employer and heaven-sent angel into a fascinating Gen X/millennial friendship that draws out their similarities and differences. By doing so, ‘Tully’ floats the provocative notion that an implicit death comes with every birth: that of a woman’s younger, free-spirited self. While Cody has a twist up her sleeve that isn’t quite necessary, the alchemic trio have forged something of subtle significance: a comedy about finding a proper way to say goodbye to the past.