• Tully (Universal Studios) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Universal/Focus Features
    Release date: July 31, 2018
    Directed by: Jason Reitman
    Cast: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass, Elaine Tan, Gameela Wright, Asher Miles Fallica, Lia Frankland
    Year: 2018
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    Tully - Movie Review:

    Marlo (Theron) is a mother of two with a third one in the oven. Her daughter, Sarah, is a brainy, reasonably well-adjusted young teen, while younger son Jonah (Fallica) has some sort of autism-related behavioral disorder that the doctors can’t quite pin down. Her husband, Drew (Livingston), is a nice enough guy, though a little oblivious to the duties of parenthood. (Marlo describes his nightly routine as: “Goes upstairs, puts on a headset, kills zombies, passes out.”)

    With child #3 expected two days hence, Marlo and Drew go to dinner at the home of Marlo’s wealthy, successful brother Craig (Duplass) and his wife, Elyse (Tan). Those two and their brood lead VERY comfortable lives, with a gorgeous house and a live-in nanny to take care of those pesky parenting chores. After the meal, Craig ushers Marlo into his gaudy, Hawaiian-themed mancave, where he proposes as a gift picking up the tab for a “night nanny,” a professional who will tend to Marlo’s new baby at night, thus letting her and Drew sleep longer than 45 minutes at a stretch.

    At first, Marlo refuses Craig’s offer. But once baby Mia arrives, life starts piling up. A new baby, after all, means frequent breastfeeding, milk-pumping, and diaper-changing, along with very little sleep. This on top of two other kids (one with issues) to raise and a husband who seems to just assume that she’s got it all under control. Things reach a head when the principal at Jonah’s private school suggests to her that they either get Jonah a full-time aide (something they can’t afford) or accept Jonah’s “dismissal” and reassignment to public school. Marlo goes off the deep end right then and there, with a profane rant that culminates with her standing outside her car in the school parking lot, screaming “Fuck!” at the top of her lungs while baby Mia wails in the back seat.

    Marlo settles down, gathers her wits, and makes a phone call. That night, after Drew and the older kids have gone to bed, Tully the night nanny (Davis) shows up at the door. She and Marlo warm to each other immediately. They chat, Tully helps Marlo pump her breast milk, and Marlo, with a surprising lack of reluctance, leaves Mia alone in the newcomer’s care for the night. In the morning, Marlo awakens to a clean, dry, sleeping Mia and a completely clean house. The second night is a repeat of the first, only on that following morning, Marlo wakes up to a dry baby, a clean house, AND a tray of warm, fresh cupcakes. An odd friendship quickly takes root between the two women, developing in unforeseen and unexpected ways.

    Since her 2004 Oscar win for Monster, Charlize Theron has kept plenty busy in a dizzying variety of genres: sci-fi (Prometheus), fantasy (Snow White and the Huntsman), biography (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers), historical drama (Head in the Clouds), heavy drama (Dark Places), comedy/drama (Young Adult), and more. She’s also, it must be said, the coolest—and hottest—kickass babe in American cinema today (Æon Flux, Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde). Nor does she have a problem doing television shows (Arrested Development, The Orville, and – God help us – Robot Chicken) along with the occasional commercial (Dior J’adore fragrance), and word around the campfire is that she’s preparing to portray Megyn Kelly in a film about the former Fox News anchor (who was really, really mean to President Trump that time).

    In other words, Charlize is pretty versatile. She does so many things so well, in fact, that nobody should be surprised when she hits it out of the park in a film such as Tully. Closer to Young Adult than anything else she’s done recently, her performance sparkles with warmth, humor, and spontaneity.

    Her ally/foil Mackenzie Davis (Blade Runner 2049, The Martian) is likewise perfect as the freewheeling eponymous character who has the wide-eyed, innocent vibe of a young Jennifer Garner. Her fast and surprisingly deep connection with Marlo (portrayed most vividly in the straight-from-left-field scene where Tully actually meets Drew), as weirdly inappropriate as it feels at times, proves at the conclusion to be authentic and affirming in ways you probably won’t see coming.

    The smaller roles are similarly well-cast. Mark Duplass in particular hits the mark as Craig, Marlo’s well-off, somewhat snotty, but obviously loving brother. Relative newcomers Asher Miles Fallica and Lia Frankland, as Marlo and Drew’s two children, are also superb. And a little extra love must be thrown toward Gameela Wright as Laurie, the principal of the private school Jonah and Sarah are lucky enough to attend (thanks to Craig’s influence and money).

    Tully is a warm, funny, and at times uncomfortable meditation on love, marriage, and the inevitable stresses that accompany both. It kicked up some controversy upon its release for the way in which the screenplay (by Diablo Cody, who won “Best Original Screenplay” in 2008 for the brilliant Juno) presents issues of postpartum depression and psychosis. That criticism may or may not be valid (this reviewer is no expert in the field), but if you let it keep you from checking out the film, it’s your loss.

    At any rate, it’s hard to find anything potentially wrong with this film that isn’t more than compensated for by what’s right with it. It’s also hard to discuss it any further without spoiling parts of the picture. Let’s just say that by the time the credits roll, you’ll mostly have been surprised into a respectable case of the warm fuzzies. It’s possible that you might feel like you’ve been played a little, but you most likely won’t mind.

    Tully - Blu-ray Review:

    Universal brings Focus Features’ Tully to Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition, in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, on a single BD50. Given the relative lack of extras, the extra disc space is used to give the film a higher bitrate. Yet, the image is hardly superlative. It’s by no means terrible, mind you; but it isn’t terrific either. It certainly looks better than your standard DVD, yet not as sharp as your average Blu-ray. Some shots are detailed, no doubt about it, but just as many are merely adequate. Considering that the film was shot in hi-def with a digital camera, it really should look better than it does. Part of the problem may be the murky image. By murky, we mean dark and desaturated. It’s customary these days to expect new films to have the color drained to the point of barely visible (a trend this viewer would like to see come to an end sooner rather than later), and Tully is no exception. The problem is that, without a full range of color to latch onto and with a modicum of artificial grain added to make it look filmic, Tully never pops the way a Blu-ray should. Amber lighting can illuminate only so much, and while the darks never degenerate into crush, nor do they surprise in their revelations.

    The soundtrack is provided in all the appropriate languages for Region A: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 for most of the United States and Canada; French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 for parts of Canada; and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 for parts of the lower 48, Mexico, the remainder of Central America, and South America. The lossless sound is handled as expected; it’s mostly solid with little dramatic music, loud pop songs, or major sound effects to detract from the conversations. Regardless, those conversations do struggle to be heard at times despite their prominence on the track, requiring the sound to be turned up to levels usually deemed “loud” on other discs. And there are occasional and minor moments where music or sound effects intrude later in the film, though these are, generally speaking, effectively handled. Optional English subtitles for the deaf or hearing impaired are included, as are optional subtitles in French and Spanish.

    The disc contains one extra related to the film, a featurette titled “The Relationships of Tully,” which runs approximately 10 minutes and is presented in hi-def. It explores the original and moving screenplay by Diablo Cody; the lead performance; and the relationship between the actors and their fictional counterparts.

    A digital copy is provided, and the case comes with a slipcover.

    Tully - The Final Word:

    Tully is a unique and moving film, an intimate portrait of a mother dealing with family life and postpartum depression. Universal’s Blu-ray release looks better than a DVD but not quite to the level of your average BD release. Save for one featurette, there are no extras. Still, the film itself is well worth checking out, thanks to an incredibly strong screenplay and superlative performances from all involved.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out in 2019.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      "God help us – Robot Chicken"

      What does that mean? Robot Chicken is excellent. Far better than the orville.