Directed by Jason Reitman (2018)
by Francis Friel, The Projectionist
Look, I have no idea how to get into how over-the-top ridiculous the entire premise of this movie is without diving into spoiler territory. It’s frankly blowing my mind even now that Tully of all fucking things ended up requiring a spoiler warning, but here we are. Don’t ever let anyone tell you we don’t live in interesting times.
But before we get into that I want to address something completely separate that’s been freaking me out ever since I ran at full speed out of the theater to get away from this mess. And that’s the fact that Tully is the third collaboration between Diablo Cody (who’s never written a good movie - Young Adult notwithstanding, as I believe she must’ve had help) and Jason Reitman (who’s one of the most professionally boring directors currently enjoying the fruits of having been juiced into the industry). And this is a story about a woman about to give birth to - and eventually caring for - her third child. And it endlessly makes reference to the word “quirky” and how it “doesn’t mean anything” and that a more appropriate word would be “retarded.” Now, that’s all well and good since the movie pretends there’s some kind of context for this observation, but let’s go ahead and take them at their word here, since I have no other idea how to start taking this thing apart other than to just go with it and assume that Cody and Reitman believe they are somehow smarter than their own material. So let’s start there.
The stunning, heartbreaking, stomach-churning “quirkiness” of these two, right away, all the way back to the absolutely full of shit Juno, was enough to turn me off of whatever was going to come next from this regretful collaboration. But I really want to stress that I thought Young Adult was fine, and at least had a point of view, which is more than can be said for anything else this team has put out either together or separately. At this point, however, I think it’s a safe assumption that it’ll go down in their filmography as their Chasing Amy, the movie that people at the time thought was “actually pretty good!” but that will eventually reveal itself to be just as wretched as the rest of their bullshit.
Because with Tully, these two are swinging for some seriously rickety fences. The specific brand of quirkiness on display here is of the type that will be appealing to people who laugh at the “jokes” on any given episode of literally any show on NPR. Or maybe audiences will really connect with the way in which it’s the story of a mother “told from the mother’s point of view!!” - which, ugh, here we go: it is and it isn’t, because get a load of this - we’ve already seen this movie already this year. It was called Acrimony and it was directed by Official Hollywood Filmmaker Tyler Perry. And with that, it’s time for that Spoiler Warning I promised up top.
I’m serious now. Tully requires a Spoiler Warning. And here I am giving it to you. So if you don’t want to know what goes down in act three of the new Diablo Cody Jason Reitman Team Up Jawn, get out now. In fact, just stay out. Don’t keep watching their movies. It only encourages them.
Alright, ready? Here goes: Tully is Diablo Cody’s Eraserhead. It’s about as subtle about its intentions (in retrospect, anyway) as it was when Lynch had a baby with a messed-up foot and made a movie about giving birth to a fucking baby cow demon. If I find out Cody has a son with some kind of developmental disability I’m gonna run into traffic because the lengths to which this movie goes to tell the story of just how much of an absolute bugfuck nightmare it is to be a parent is going to haunt her children for the rest of their lives. This is some serious horseshit. And I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet.
Towards the end of the film, after we’ve followed along with Marlo and Tully (Charlize Theron, who just wasted two whole years of her life for this - and Mackenzie Davis, who is so “cute” and “quirky” in this movie that I wanted to run up and tear the screen right off the wall) for about an hour, wondering why certain characters traits don’t quite add up, thinking maybe there’s something off about Tully and her weirdly intimate interest in and relationship with Marlo, the movie just straight-up pulls the rug out and reveals its batshit true colors: Tully is Tyler Durden. There is no fucking Tully. Tully is the younger Marlo, reappearing just in time to help her present self get through the trauma of raising a newborn (for the third time).
So, not only is this really stupid, but the film can’t even commit to its own poopy diaper of a plot contrivance because multiple times over the course of the movie it becomes clear that this conceit makes zero fucking sense. First, there’s the issue of Marlo’s brother, whose idea it was to hire a night nanny in the first place. It’s his gift to his sister as a way of easing the stress of staying up all night, nursing the baby, raising the kids, etc. So in theory they would hire this night nanny (“She comes highly recommended”) and her brother would pay for everything. But later, her husband and brother are discussing Tully at a party. The husband (Ron Livingston, who spends most of the movie in bed playing video games when he’s not in bed having a threesome with Marlo and Tully, the details of which obviously ALSO makes no fucking sense) mentions to the brother (a Duplass, Jesus fucking Christ) that the night nanny is really working out, to which the brother replies that he’s happy that they decided to follow through. But like, isn’t he paying the bills? Doesn’t he know they never actually called the agency and that there is no night nanny? This is so fucking confusing I can barely stand it.
Then there’s the part where Marlo and Tully drive into Brooklyn to drink all night and end up crashing the car and PLUMMETING INTO A RIVER. Then Tully, who is now a mermaid (the film is full of this bizarre mermaid imagery, too, by the way) shows up and pulls the unconscious Marlo out of the car and somehow gets her to the hospital. Huh?? But it’s at the hospital that the actual, all the way, 100% reveal of Tully’s non-reality is presented and it is the dumbest thing I’ve seen in a movie since Rey snapped her fingers ten thousand times in the Jedi Funhouse Hall of Mirrors and discovered that the power was within her all along or whatever the fuck.
So. All of this happens and it’s then revealed that Marlo is seriously mentally ill. The film, naturally, decides to do nothing at all with this information and simply…ends. Her son says something sufficiently “wise” (I think) and Marlo and Marlo’s Husband go do the dishes together or make a sandwich together or whatever the hell it is they’re doing in the final shot.
I swear to you, it is a genuine, real-world source of depression to me that movies like this are allowed to be let loose on the planet. A retread not only of Cody and Reitman’s first two movies together but also a Fight Club ripoff? They even name the characters fucking Tully and Marlo. They aren’t even hiding it. So the question becomes: why did they hide it??
Why not advertise the film as what it is? Why not make the film into something where you’re not forced to fitfully hide what’s really going on? Make it about her mental illness. Hell, you could’ve made it a wacky goofy manic pixie psychosis girl movie where Marlo hangs out with her imaginary Tully and it’s hilarious and cute and QUIRKY and I still would’ve hated it but it at least would’ve been something like a real movie.
I’m not watching any more Diablo Cody movies. I don’t care if she writes Guardians 3. I’m done. And Jason Reitman, you only get a pass because your films have no personality at all and I bet I end up watching something you make just by accident.