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Josh Reviews Tully

Tully marks the third collaboration between director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody.  Their first film together, Juno, got a lot of (well-deserved) acclaim, but I liked their second film — Young Adult, starring Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt — even more!  It’s been a delight following their collaboration through these three movies, and I hope they continue to make lots more films together!

In Tully, Charlize Theron is again the lead, this time as Marlo, a harried mother of two who, when the film opens, is pregnant with her third child (who was unplanned).  Marlo loves her kids and her husband (Drew, played by Ron Livingston), but she already seems to be at her wit’s end even before entering the gauntlet of the sleepless-nights-filled experience of parenting a newborn.  At the instistence of her brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), Marlo eventually relents and hires a night nurse, Tully (Mackenzie Davis), and things begin to change for Marlo almost immediately.

Tully is an interesting film. It’s extremely well-made, though I respect the craft on display a little more than I actually loved the film.  Part of that is because of how unflinchingly honest the film is about the unglamorous parts of parenting.  The film spends a great deal of time highlighting the minutae of being a parent of young children, the sort of stuff you seldom see portrayed on screen.  Even for those of us who have not suffered from the sort of emotional distress that Marlo goes through over the course of the film, or had to deal with a child with the needs that her son has, there is a lot to recognize here, and it is painful!  Watching Marlo deal with all of these harries and hassles of day-to-day life, and slowly crumble under the weight of it all, is (intentionally) tough to sit through.  So there are long stretches of Tully that are not exactly a fun watch.  However, my main hesitation about the film is connected to what happens in the final ten-ish minutes.  I will get into this a little later in this review.

First, let’s lavish some praise on the cast.  Mr. Reitman is a great director and Ms. Cody is a grat writer, and there is no question that these two have an electric alchemy.  They seem to balance each other’s strengths.  Each of their three collaborations has had a distinct energy and tone.  But for me, when Tully really sings it is because of the terrific cast.

Charlize Theron once again demonstrates that she is a fantastic actress.  (Those of us who saw Young Adult and Mad Max: Fury Road, among many other great performances by Ms. Theron, already know … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Young Adult

In a season of generally serious movie-fare, Young Adult is a blazingly funny film that still carries some serious dramatic heft.  It’s an absolute knockout of a film from screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman (who previously collaborated on the great 2007 film Juno).

Charlize Theron plays Mavis.  She was clearly the queen bee of her high school, though her life these days seems to be anything but great.  She’s divorced, living alone in the city, and the line of high school-set young adult novels that she’s been ghost-writing has been cancelled.  When she receives an e-mail notification that her old high school flame, Buddy, has become a father, Mavis decides to head back to her small home-town of Mercury to win back her old beau (his wife and child be damned).

Ms. Theron has never been better, in my opinion, than she is as Mavis.  Mavis is still gorgeous on the outside, but Ms. Theron (guided by Ms. Cody’s take-no-prisoners script) is fearless in showing us how absolutely twisted and broken she is on the inside.  Mavis is a terrible, terrible person, and of course for the whole film you’re rooting at her to fail in breaking up Buddy’s family.  But at the same time, Ms. Theron is able to create a character who doesn’t totally turn off the audience.  She’s so hysterical in her bad behavior that she’s completely compelling as the lead character in the film.

The comedian Patton Oswalt is equally terrific as Matt Freehauf, a high school classmate who Mavis bumps into at a bar when she first returns to Mercury.  Matt was (and still is) a geek, and to say that he and Mavis travelled in different circles in high school is to put it mildly.  And yet, the two strike up a weird sort of friendship during the week that Mavis is in town.  There are a few times when the film hits the “geek” aspect of Matt’s personality a bit too hard (there are plenty of lonely geeky guys out there, I’m sure, who don’t still play with action figures), but for the most part I found Matt to be nearly as interesting a personality as Mavis.  Most of that is due to Mr. Oswalt’s energy and charisma.  Matt is a depressed, lonely guy, someone who contains a lot of pain and sadness inside, and yet even as Matt says he hates his life, Mr. Oswalt gives him an almost childlike joie do vivre that I found tremendously entertaining.  Physically and personality-wise, the pairing of Mavis and Matt (and Ms. Theron and Mr. Oswalt) is an inspired study in contrasts, and yet the two are both so similar in their loneliness.  … [continued]