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Focus Features

Tully (2018)

Screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman's third collaboration (and their second with an ostensibly unglamorous Charlize Theron), "Tully" continues charting the messy womanhood for which the duo's heroines are always woefully unprepared. Ms. Theron plays Marlo, who has her hands full tending to the screaming fits of three tykes while her genial husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), occupies himself with work and video games. Marlo's enviably well-to-do brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), offers to hire a night nanny to help lighten her load. Though initially too haughty to accept, Marlo soon surrenders to his goodwill. The eponymous nanny, played by Mackenzie Davis, turns out too good to be true.

Ms. Theron, who also serves as one of the film's producers, apparently saw the film's potential as a showcase for her talents. She was unflinchingly game, sporting post-baby belly and lactation stains. The strength of her performance certainly helps suspend any disbelief that Marlo's a middle-class normcore mother.

While Marlo's travails are realistic and relatable, her solutions aren't. The film's plot hinges on a major twist that reveals Marlo as an unreliable narrator potentially with undiagnosed mental illness. Without spoiling further, suffice it to say the film doesn't quite pull off the sleight of hand. Often when movies employ such a narrative device, they also leave a trail of bread crumbs that spurs repeat viewings à la "The Sixth Sense." "Tully" eschews the foreshadowing, resulting in inexplicable gaping plot holes that deflate the realism with which Ms. Cody and Mr. Reitman have carefully imbued the film. By withholding pertinent information for cheap thrills, the movie also misses an opportunity to meaningfully explore Marlo's mental condition.


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