WARNING: Review contains MAJOR SPOILERS
David: Charlize Theron gives a standout performance as Marlo, a mother at her wits' end raising two young children as well as a newborn in Tully, a film written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman—the same duo responsible for Juno (2007) and Young Adult (2011). Marlo's husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), is a workaholic, so it is just her dealing with the children until her brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), recommends a hippie-dippy night nanny named Tully (MacKenzie Davis). The two women quickly bond, as Tully appears to be a dream come true. The movie really conveys the stress and frustration of raising kids, and for that, it is very engaging. However, there are fundamental scenes that appear to be missing, as well as moments here and there that are odd or don't make sense. These oddities are supposedly explained in a third-act twist.
To get into this twist, we have to get into the dreaded SPOILERS. So, if you plan to see the movie and don't want it ruined, STOP reading NOW. In the third act we find out Tully is, in fact, a figment of Marlo's imagination due to a mental breakdown. To me, the twist was cheap. What was your reaction to it?
Fritz: I don't feel the twist was a total cheat because the movie definitely gives you clues along the way that something is amiss. However, I don't think it entirely worked, either. Wouldn't it have been more interesting if they actually did hire a night nanny who was a real character and who had different relationships with both Theron and her husband?
But while I didn't like the twist, I don't think it's disastrous in the way that other misguided twists in film history have been (The Village leaps to mind). It's pretty rare for movies to address the darker sides of parenting. Kids can be joyous, loving, and rekindle those traits as well as a sense of wonder in their parents. But children can also be selfish, combative, and difficult. Parenting is a supremely exhausting endeavor. Parents essentially never stop working. Most of them work a job, then come home and work as a parent until bedtime. Tully captures that sense of exhaustion. Theron clearly loves her children, but she's also worn out and sometimes seems like a shell of her former self. It's rare to see that depicted on film, and Tully does it well.
Overall, it's a movie where the individual parts are greater than the sum. But I like the individual parts enough that I would still recommend it to viewers.
David: For me, the little oddities throughout are glaring and distracting, and I don't feel that all the pieces come together once the twist is revealed. For instance, Marlo's husband doesn't bother to meet Tully when she first comes to the house. I don't care how overworked and tired you are, you are going to want to meet the person who is caring for your child. Of course, he can't meet Tully because she doesn't exist.
Later, however, there is a scene where Tully pleasures Drew when Marlo invites her into the bedroom. Clearly, after the big reveal, we now know it was Marlo, in her own mind, pretending to be Tully. To me, this scene is the filmmakers’ attempt to cover their tracks for writing themselves into a corner.
I felt the twist was contrived and it made me angry because it was unnecessary, crippling a movie that had many good—and even great—moments.