3 (out of 4)
Ten years ago Jason Reitman was one of the few Academy darling directors actually worth his salt, but his relevance to the filmmaking world has all but disappeared recently. The decidedly more dramatic sidesteps of his last two features Labor Day and Men, Women & Children floundered both critically and financially – it seemed we lost whatever was left of the guy who brought us the likes Thank You for Smoking and a masterwork in Up in the Air.
Writer Diablo Cody – who won Best Original Screenplay for her debut Juno and penned Reitman’s last decent film Young Adult – has returned with Tully, a thematic counterweight to her own brand of maternity-centered comedy as well as another well-conceived platform for Charlize Theron’s considerable acting abilities. For Reitman, this third collaboration with Cody is a pleasure, a relief and a decisive return to form.
Removed from the adolescent mindset in any shape or form, Cody’s dialogue is the most observational and naturally funny of her pairings with Reitman. Even with generous helpings of surgically arranged banter, all the film’s hilarity comes from her knack for piercing, unflattering social commentary and an intuition for revelatory character interactions. The tale of Tully finds Ron Livingston's Drew and Theron's Marlo as husband and wife expecting their third child. Mark Duplass plays Marlo’s well-to-do brother Craig who suggests a night nanny during the early stages of infancy, and so Mackenzie Davis' titular Tully helps Marlo get some sleep and get her shit together.
You can hardly believe Theron was the Atomic Blonde herself less than a year ago, as the Oscar winner's substantial range takes her back to an inelegance similar to both her teen novelist character in Young Adult and her legendary performance in Monster. Davis is also worth treasuring, nailing her character's cocktail of alarming sincerity and millennial youthfulness. Through their character's oddly intimate relationship, the script scales the most human aspects of motherhood. From the nightmares in and out of sleep to the serenity of casually conversing with your kids and asserting your parental instincts, Tully is full of interesting takes on well-explored ideas.
Cody may not have supplied much of a convincing ending, but the quality of her writing beforehand is dense enough that you might even be playing catch up with the film’s subtleties. In direction, Reitman retains his knack for selective soundtrack choices, elevating every moment of montage and informing tone better than traditional scoring ever could. His ear is what makes him so good at oscillating between seriousness and levity so delicately, and the equilibrium he strikes here is on par with some of his best films.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
the first installment of
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