Sundance 2018: Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody's 'Tully' is Wonderful
by Alex Billington
January 25, 2018
It's such a good feeling to walk in and see a film and discover something so wonderful and heartwarming and original. And I'm so happy that filmmaker Jason Reitman is back at his best again. Tully is director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody's latest collaboration (following Juno and Young Adult). It just premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival as a last-minute addition to the festival, and I loved it. This is Cody's best screenplay since Juno, hands down. It has such a lovely mix of genuine sweetness and good-hearted humor, balanced in equal measure and brought to life with a light touch by Reitman and his crew. It's a film about how sometimes you can't always take on everything in life by yourself, but there is more hidden within it that you have to see to discover yourself. Great films require this personal experience.
Reitman and Cody's Tully stars Charlize Theron as Marlo, a middle-aged mother about to have her third child, with Ron Livingston starring as her husband. When the baby comes, she is so totally overwhelmed and exhausted with all the work and the struggle of managing three kids, that she pretty much loses it. Her bother eventually suggests they hire a "night nanny", who comes in and works during the night to help with the baby and take away some of the stress and workload. This is where Mackenzie Davis comes in, playing the night nanny Tully, who helps her get her life back in order and everything starts to come together. It's an endearing, heartwarming film throughout, and shows how much of a burden life can be, and sometimes we need to embrace outside help and accept that we can't always do it on our own. It can make a big difference.
There's actually much more to it that I can't talk about unless you've seen it. And I really don't even want to hint that something else is going on, because the film is really so lovely and I don't want to take away from important discussions about it. And it really is about this charming relationship between Tully and Marlo, and how good they are working together, and how much this changes things for Marlo. Cody's script is so impressive, so mature and wonderful. There's never any worry that it's going to turn sinister or get dark, which is refreshing when so many films tend to do this just for the sake of changing things up. And the way Reitman captures the lead performances by Theron & Davis really make the script sing. It is authentically about a mother and just how hard it is to be one, how challenging it is to have a life while raising children.
It really makes me happy that Jason Reitman has directed something so lovable again, Tully is his best film in years. It has such a light touch to the storytelling, never feeling heavy-handed or intense, but also keeps you captivated and amused and impressed by all the performances. And once you figure out what else is going on, it gets even deeper and more meaningful (you'll see what I mean). There's such a powerful story about a mother buried inside of this film, and it's quite enchanting to see that portrayed with a thoughtful delicacy. Perhaps it helps that Reitman is a father, and Cody is a mother, and their personal experiences certainly play into it. And it's important that there is levity, because this is such an emotional story that the humor allows us to follow without being burdened by our own thoughts or fears or stress. Bravo, Reitman.
Alex's Sundance 2018 Rating: 9 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing