When a mother of three is gifted a night nanny, the two women form a unique bond. Tully succeeds where most films fail by telling a honest story with genuine characters. Put that together with a solid video and audio transfer, and you have a release that is easily Recommended.
While watching Tully, I started wondering if there was an actress out there today that has the beauty and the courage to show herself in such unglamorized roles quite as well as Charlize Theron. She has a way of finding her characters’ vulnerabilities that humanizes them and makes them relatable, while also discovering a strong core. There are some roles that every actress in Hollywood would kill to play, yet they wouldn’t pull it off quite as effortlessly. Though not all of her films are all of the same quality, her performances are. So, when you pair her with a talented writer/director team like Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman, that should be a winning combination.
Diablo Cody excels when featuring pluckish characters with a kind center, and Tully is no exception. Much to my surprise, our title character isn’t actually Tully, but Marlo, played by the always fabulous Charlize Theron. Having gained an extra 50 pounds for this role, it is a more subdued, low key performance. Marlo is a stay at home mom with two kids and a third due any day now. Her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) works hard to support his family, and help out around the house whenever he can. Theron handles the role of this seemingly average woman expertly. Marlo loves her husband and kids, but they stress her out, cause her to be overtired, and fall off the deep end from time to time. The dialogue and situations these characters are put into are also expertly done. There are a number of scenes where the characters discuss the old adage of “every kid gets easier, and by your third it’s no big deal. You’re a pro at that point.” And while Marlo plays along with her snarky quips, inside she knows it is not getting easier for her. She feels overwhelmed as it is with two children, never mind a third any day now. There are so many wonderfully crafted scenes that allow Theron to display all of these complex emotions with just a facial expression.
When the baby finally arrives and things only get worse for Marlo (displayed excellently by a montage of relatable, but stressful infant related blunders), her brother Craig (Mark Duplass) offers to hire a night nurse. After initially finding it weird (because who wouldn’t?) she reluctantly agrees, and in walks Tully (Mackenzie Davis). A twenty-something with an excellent figure and no ties to anyone, and seems to embody everything Marlo envies. But they quickly warm up to each other and, thanks to Tully, Marlo sleeps the whole night, only waking to feed the newborn. Theron and Davis play off of each other expertly here as they both have lives that the other envies. In return, they both live vicariously through each other and make each other better people.
Unfortunately, the film's third act of the film takes a weird turn and doesn't quite fit with the low-key tone of the rest of the film. Since motherhood truly never ends, perhaps it was hard for the filmmakers to find the right ending. But a weak ending doesn’t stop this from being a delightfully relatable experience. It would be so easy to craft a dower, overacted, and overly long film about motherhood. Cody, Reitman, and Theron have constructed a film that is sure to find a soft spot in every parent's heart.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Universal Studios brings Tully to Blu-ray with standard slipcover to hard packaging. Inside lies a BD-50 Blu-ray with a Movies Anywhere digital code. Once popped in, we are prompted with a series of skippable trailers before being brought to a still image main menu that lets us navigate from there.
Tully hits Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode that offers exactly what one would expect from a drama like this. With a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Tully has a very warm color palette. Natural lighting tends to have a yellow hue to it, especially during night scenes. Marlo's house is where the best detail is found, with little details like a ragged towel hanging over an old wooden chair, or a worn-out couch. All of these details are subtle, but do a lot to add to the atmosphere. It’s a house that feels lived in rather than just feeling like a prop. Black levels are deep without being protruding, but do soften the image at times. There is slight aliasing in two scenes where a lamp on a table is in frame. None of these problems are ruinous, but they are worth noting. This isn’t going to be the sharpest transfer on your shelf. But is a nice one that suits the film quite well.
Like the video transfer, this DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix for Tully won't blow anyone away, but there are things to praise here. The soundtrack is the standout, coming in full 5.1 surround sound. Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman have always brought their soundtracks to the forefront of their collaborations. And even though this isn’t the most obvious case (that will always belong to Juno) the soundtrack is very well integrated with the film’s tone, and we get to hear it throughout the entire sound field. The rest of the film is a mostly front heavy affair with very little to note. The dialogue is crisp and clear, and bass response is limited to the soundtrack.
Tully gave me exactly what I expected from these collaborators. A somewhat restrained audio track that comes to life with an engaging soundtrack.
Unfortunately, Tully debuts on Blu-ray with only one special feature:
Having gone through the process of caring for a newborn quite recently (even though I come from the male perspective), I can relate with the humor and overwhelming exhaustion that comes with the experience. Tully captures the agony that a newborn child can bring along with the immense joy. This is honestly one of the most relatable films I have seen in quite some time. An odd climax doesn’t stop this from being a Recommended release for anyone looking for an Oscar-worthy performance from Charlize Theron.