Movie Review - Tully (2018)
Theron stars as Marlo, a woman who used to live in Brooklyn in a loft with another woman years ago in a possible same-sex romance. Now, Marlo lives in the suburbs with a husband and two children, a daughter who's 8 and a son who's 5. She's currently pregnant with a third child and is days away from giving birth. The movie takes place within the few weeks, if possibly months of her maternity leave from her job. She was an English major but her job is in Human Resources of some random company.
It's said that Marlo had issues with depression after the birth of her son. Now, it's clear that at age 5, her son has behavioral issues. He seems perfectly fine most of the time. Occasionally, he'll have freak out moments. It's causing problems at his private elementary school that wants the little boy gone. The first bit of comedy at which Cody excels is the polite way the principal of the school conveys to Marlo how the school doesn't want her son and the polite way Marlo responds though clearly ironically.
The problem comes in the writing. I understand that Cody wanted to isolate Marlo and show how alone a woman and mother can feel, which is valid, but it's like Marlo doesn't have any friends or any other person to whom she can unload or unburden herself. I understand that Cody wanted to show how all else can fall away, but it's perhaps a step too far here because Marlo's isolation feels contrived in order to get to the twist of the third act, which becomes a metaphor I appreciated but not sure was necessary.
I figure that the message is that motherhood can be overwhelming and sometimes, if not most times a mother needs help. Some mothers try to do it all and feel like they have to do it all or else they're not a good mother, but that's not true. Having help and relaxing a bit aren't bad things. This is a lesson that is learned by the beginning of the second act. Where the movie goes in the third act muddles this lesson somewhat.
In a twist out of The Sixth Sense (1999), Fight Club (1999) and A Beautiful Mind (2001), we learn Tully isn't real. She's just a figment of Marlo's imagination. No one realizes this because Tully only shows up at night when everyone else is in bed or asleep. Marlo tells her husband Drew, played by Ron Livingston (The Conjuring and Office Space), about the night nanny but he never actually meets her. There is a fake-out moment where we think he does, but it's meant to mislead us, so that by the end, Marlo is revealed to have been talking to herself and can be labeled as having a mental illness.
The chemistry between Theron and Davis is so incredible that at one point it feels like the two could become lovers. That is until it's revealed that Marlo is essentially talking to herself and falling in love with herself. It's a kind of narcissism that's being celebrated or embraced, perhaps to get at what the recent Amy Schumer film I Feel Pretty was getting at, which is loving oneself, but unlike A Beautiful Mind or Fight Club, Marlo never states if she realizes Tully isn't real or even is a manifestation of her younger self. I suppose we're to assume she does, but who knows?
Rated R for language and some sexuality / nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 34 mins.