The lengths some actors go to for a role, eh? Over the decades, the proverbial “method acting” has come in various shapes and sizes (literally, in some cases) as some of our most daring performers have taken it upon themselves to inhabit the role they are playing. Whether staying in character for the duration of the film’s shoot and beyond (see Jim Carrey and Daniel Day-Lewis), gaining or losing weight (see Christian Bale, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey and many others) or disappearing behind a mountain of prosthetics there is no end to the possibilities that help bring a character to life.
Charlize Theron has been here before, of course – she famously went through such a transformation in 2003’s Monster which saw her win an Academy Award, gaining weight for the role – and with the Tully, the new film from Juno duo Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, she is doing it again, this time to fully feel and inhabit a mother-of-three dealing with the tribulations of motherhood. She stars as Marlo, a thirty-something woman who on the surface seems to have everything: a loving husband (Ron Livingston), a nice house and two young children but life isn’t as idyllic as it may seem to the passer-by, particularly when the expectant mother gives birth to baby number three and the proverbial shit-filled nappies hit the fan.
To put it bluntly, Marlo is sinking, cast adrift in the sea of parenting with no solution in sight until her brother (Jay Duplass) suggests something radical and potentially life-saving: hiring a night nanny, someone who will look after her newborn “after hours” while she gets some well-earned rest. And soon enough, Tully (Mackenzie Davis) enters her life like a modern-day Mary Poppins and quickly begins to turn their fortunes.
If you are familiar with Cody’s previous work – the aforementioned Juno, Jennifer’s Body or Young Adult – you may be hesitant to seek out Tully as the writer has made her name for being overly explicit and crude when it comes to her stories but with her latest effort, there’s a noticeable maturity that gives this one a much more human edge while she explores the real tribulations and frustrations that motherhood brings, both mentally and physically.
Indeed, the same can be said for director Reitman who seems to have come into his own here and produced perhaps his best work to date – there are a real sharpness and real-world feel to the film that doesn’t shy away from the fact that parenting is such a vicious cycle of dizzying highs and murky depths. One minute, you’re could be completely enamoured as a parent to your children where others you want to throttle them and Reitman does a brilliant job of showing both sides of the coin.
That said, the film would be nothing without its star turns and here we get two of the year’s best with both of the leads excelling. We have come to expect much from Theron despite some small missteps in some of her previous work (hello, The Last Face) but here she delivers an absolute thunderbolt of a performance. Equally, Davis enhances her already glowing reputation (if anyone can save the Terminator franchise, maybe it’s her?) as Tully in a role that fits her like a glove, and the two together really do bring out the best in one another. It’s never too early for Oscar talk for both of them – indeed, it will take some performance to oust them out of consideration come the New Year.
The screens around the country may be full-to-the-brim with a certain war about some magic stones right now but Tully provides both a nice respite and as worthy a cinematic experience as the other monstrous film. A witty, warm and touching film that is as pertinent as ever and propelled by two stunning central performances, it’s well-worth spending 90 minutes in their company.
Scott J.Davis |
Drama | 2018, USA | 15 | 5th May 2018 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir.Jason Reitman | Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass, Ron Livingston,