Tully is interesting to me because when I walked out of the screening I felt fully satisfied and was not expecting to really feel an urge to revisit it, at least not for a good while. However, it’s been two days now and despite the fact that I watched two more of Jason Reitman’s films after this (Juno and Up In The Air), his most recent release seems to be the one that has stuck in my mind since.
The reason I find that especially curious is that of those three films, Tully is the most understated. There isn’t much in the way of quirky (and at times show-offy) dialogue, editing and general visual style here. In fact, most all of the camerawork and writing is very down-to-earth and personal. Perhaps that’s why this is my favourite of the three: it doesn’t feel the need to prove that it’s great – it just is. While Juno is chock full of enough quippy one-liners to make even Joss Whedon raise an eyebrow, Tully has enough faith in its phenomenal lead performance that it doesn’t need a barrage of we’re-so-indie musical moments to prove how effective or, dare I say, quirky it is. Admittedly, Up In The Air isn’t even egregious at all in this way, but there are certainly montage moments where it feels like Reitman is waving a big sign in front of you that says ‘this is a movie’ on it.
I appreciate Tully so much because it feels far more personal than those other two movies. Diablo Cody’s witty yet grounded dialogue is far improved from her (somehow) Oscar-winning <i>Juno</i> script. I guess the difference is Marlo feels like a human being and not just a joke dispenser. In a very short amount of time, she is established as a character with a dark, almost asshole-ish sense of humour, but when she’s compared to her brother’s condescending wife, she is very easy to like. Not to mention her situation, a struggling pregnant mother of two kids, one of which has learning difficulties meaning she has to deal with relocating this son to a new school while at the very end of her pregnancy. She’s clearly a very strong-willed character, but she’s on the absolute brink of her sanity.
However, while I was dreading some annoying black-and-white mindset by making her husband and brother be total assholes against her innocent self, this isn’t what happens at all. Marlo is a deeply flawed character – an overly proud lone rider who tries to get through her problems alone – but still genuinely cares for her husband who is flawed too by not being conscious of the very clear warning signs suggesting Marlo’s very clear mental problems. The brother too is only trying to help her, but we come to understand he can sometimes hold helping Marlo financially over her head at times. All the characters, aside from Tully for very good reason revealed in the film’s conclusion, are flawed in some way or another, and this makes everything in the film so authentic and believable. You grow to like everyone, and that means when the ending rolls around, you feel the full impact. The final frame in the movie contains so much meaning and purpose which really resonated with me. The image is so mundane, yet so perfect, as a summary of the entire film.
I cannot stress enough how great this film is. There’s so much to enjoy here, be it the entertaining conversations between Marlo and Tully or the various impactful emotional beats which absolutely justify the months of junk food and slobbish lifestyle Charlize Theron put herself through for the role. It is heartbreaking this film has gone under the radar of general audiences, and I really hope it acquires some kind of cult classic following in the future, because this really is something special. I’m expecting the Oscars to overlook this film next year, which is a shame because Theron deserves every Oscar imaginable. Please check this one out when you can.