Sundance 2018 Review: Tully is an Award-Worthy Collaboration from Cody and Reitman
Every year at Sundance, there is a surprise secret screening. The history of these secret screenings has always been hit and miss for critics and audiences alike. Sometimes the surprise film ends up being a masterpiece like Get Out and sometimes its Jupiter Ascending. This year the secret screening was Jason Reitman’s Tully, which luckily ended up being the former rather than the latter.
Tully is the third feature film that reunites director Jason Reitman with screenwriter Diablo Cody. The film stars Charlize Theron as Marlo, a mother of two with a third child on the way. Marlo is a stay at home mom whose husband, Drew (Ron Livingston) works full time and is barely around. One evening, Marlo and Drew visit her brother Craig (Mark Duplass) and his wife, Elyse (Elaine Tan) for dinner. Craig notices that Marlo seems stressed, so he offers to pay for a night nanny to help her out after the new baby is born. While reluctant at first, Marlo accepts Craig’s generous offer and welcomes Tully (Mackenzie Davis) into her home. The two instantly form a unique friendship that will change their lives forever.
Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman make such a remarkable filmmaking duo. While they have only worked together three times, they have a proven track record of making magic together. Tully is Cody and Reitman’s most mature feature to date and one that has a lot going on underneath the surface. Cody’s screenplay is written with a ton of heart, but there is a lot of her own life in this film. The plot of the film is all about the struggles of motherhood which is something that Cody is relatively familiar with since she has two children of her own. The way that Marlo was written is unlike any character that Cody has written before. Marlo is a very personal character for Cody and one that seems to resemble how Cody must have felt at some point during her time as a mother.
The role of Marlo is Charlize Theron’s best performance since Monster. Marlo is an incredibly complex character, and Theron has no problem immersing herself into this role. Theron brings to life a character that is complicated and faced with so much in her daily day to day life. Marlo has a grim outlook on life and is the type of person that has something smart to say about almost everything. While Marlo is often shown as funny and sarcastic, there is a lot more to her than what she initially lets on. As the story progresses, Theron begins to peels back the layers as we learn about Marlo’s past and how she became the person that she is today. Theron performance feels incredibly authentic and doesn’t feel like a fictional character but rather a real-life mother who has forgotten what it was like to enjoy life. This is an award-worthy performance from Theron and one that will hopefully be discussed a lot more throughout the rest of 2018.
Mackenzie Davis as Tully is perfection. Over the past several years, Davis has starred in a lot of smaller projects and with roles like Mariette in Blade Runner 2049 and now, Tully, she is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after young actresses in Hollywood. The relationship between Tully and Marlo is what makes this film so special and memorable. Their friendship is the heart an soul of this story, and Davis, like Theron, wholly commits to the material. As soon as Tully shows up in the film, we begin to learn more about Marlo’s past as well as her relationship with her husband, Drew. Marlo and Tully spend a lot of their time together discussing what could have been and what the future holds. They talk about pretty much everything from their biggest regrets to their sex lives.
Just like the two previous Reitman and Cody projects, Tully is filled with great dialogue that is quick, sharp, and funny. The way that Cody writes dialogue comes across as very natural. I get the feeling that Cody writes like she speaks and therefore can convey how a line is supposed to be said to the actors. What I love most, however, about Cody’s writing is that she never shies away from being real with her stories. I don’t want to spoil anything about this film which you can probably tell from how vague this review is, but there are some heavy topics addressed that will hit home for many, especially parents to be or those who have had children.
Tully is Jason Reitman’s best film since Juno. I have always loved Reitman as a director because I find that he always has something interesting and thought-provoking to say. He makes films that are geared towards adults and doesn’t try to sugarcoat things. The collaborations between Reitman and Cody are always so strong because you can tell they understand one another. Reitman has a real understanding as to what Cody is trying to convey with her stories, and Cody’s screenplays always seem to be about things that are familiar to her. This is a win/win combination and why with each new film they can create something that is a triumph.
Tully is an instant classic and one that reconfirms that Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody are remarkable storytellers. Tully is sure to be an early Oscar contender for Focus Features and is the best film of 2018 so far. Charlize Theron deserves a nomination for Best Actress while Mackenzie Davis should be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. If history repeats itself, which it should, Diablo Cody will get a nomination for Best Original Screenplay while Jason Reitman has the potential of getting two Best Director nominations for his work on Tully as well as The Front Runner which opens later this year. Touching, charming, and wise, Tully is a must-see film and one that is sure to get audiences talking.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Tully is a 9.5 out of 10