s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to SonomaNews.com, the Sonoma Index-Tribune eEdition and our mobile app for just $5.25 per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to SonomaNews.com, the Sonoma Index-Tribune eEdition and our mobile app for just $5.25 per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to SonomaNews.com, the Sonoma Index-Tribune eEdition and our mobile app for just $5.25 per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Get unlimited access to SonomaNews.com, the Sonoma Index-Tribune eEdition and our mobile app for just $5.25 per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to SonomaNews.com, the Sonoma Index-Tribune eEdition and our mobile app for just $5.25 per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
For just $5.25 per month, you can keep reading SonomaNews.com, the Sonoma Index-Tribune eEdition and our mobile, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?

Film review: Charlize Theron goes atomic mom in ‘Tully’

X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

If you didn’t know better, you might think the new film “Tully” was made to show how unbelievably depressing it is to have kids, especially three of them. The pregnant star of the piece, Marlo (Charlize Theron), claims that baby No. 3 is, “such a blessing,” but the rote manner in which she says it distresses.

If you last saw Theron in “Atomic Blonde,” the physical contrast between that role and this one is striking — her steely MMA fighter trimness is replaced by a heavier pregnancy and post-partum frame. The vodka slugging and New Wave soundtrack have been scrapped for microwaved nachos and trash TV after she puts the kids to bed.

In addition to her infant Mia, Marlo has the quiet Sarah (Lia Frankland) and the mercurial Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) a frequently tantrumming kindergartner. His concerned teacher describes him as “quirky” as a holding phrase until he is diagnosed with something more serious.

They’re a handful and Marlo’s husband Drew is little help. Ron Livingston plays the man as a hangdog’s hangdog, a guy whose main obsessions are his tech job and late night video gaming (he dons a headset and everything). He does not appear likely to change his stripes after the birth of his new daughter — this is how Marlo sums up her feelings: “I feel like an abandoned trash barge.”

To focus their anger outward rather than inward, the family goes to visit Marlo’s brother Craig (Mark Duplass) and sister-in-law Elyse (Elaine Tan). The couple is tagged as insufferably rich because they have a matte-finish Mercedes G-Class SUV in the driveway and a dog called Prosecco. And then there’s the fact that they’ve hired a “night nanny” to help Elyse through her first post-pregnancy months.

From the custom-built tiki bar in his home, Craig offers to secure the services of a night nanny for Marlo, too, so she gets some sleep as Mia adjusts to life outside the womb. After getting all the anxious “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” references out of her system, Marlo eventually selects a nocturnal au pair. Soon Tully (Mackenzie Davis) arrives dispensing bon mots such as, “I’m like Saudi Arabia — I have an energy surplus.”

Tully’s calm competence and indefatigable nature immediately take the edge off the domestic sadness — the two women form a tight bond, never disturbing Drew or the two older kids. Marlo reveals to Tully stuff she hasn’t thought about in years. It turns out that an English lit degree — if it doesn’t lead to a lucrative job in film criticism — can land you in dead end, dull HR work. Marlo’s past is Bushwick and bisexuality, while her present is poopy diapers and post-partum depression in upstate New York.

The work of screenwriter Diablo Cody has always been a mixed bag but here, despite some overreaches, there are great lines. Marlo explains that, in her younger days, she rode every horse on the carousel. Tully asks, “Which one was Drew?” “Drew was the bench.” Sorry Drew.

Thanks to her new best friend, Marlo slumbers so deeply that she swims with dream mermaids in the depths — she seems, as T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock, reluctant to reawaken to her pre-night nanny existence:

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Tully breaks the reverie when she says that, like a manic pixie Mary Poppins, she must move on to another role. This revelation leads to a more thrilling ending than you’d expect from an understated film about the glamor-free intimacy of the home and the relationships between the people stuck there.