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Film / Tully

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Tully is a 2018 dramedy and the third collaboration between director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody. It stars Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, and Mark Duplass.

Marlo Moreau (Theron) just had her third child and is overwhelmed with taking care of the baby, as well as her two older kids. Her brother Craig (Duplass) offers a solution: a night nanny that he would pay for himself. Enter Tully (Davis), who is there to "take care" of Marlo and her kids.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Mackenzie Davis who plays Tully also stars in the Black Mirror episode "San Junipero" where she plays a younger "version" of herself.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Marlo is in a stable marriage with Drew, but while drunk she mention having been "in love with" her former roommate Violet.
  • A Mistake Is Born: It's revealed through conversation between Marlo and her brother Craig that her third child wasn't a planned pregnancy. Nevertheless they thought it was a miracle.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Early in the film, an elderly woman looks disapprovingly Marlo ordering a decaf coffee (after telling her that caffeine is bad for the fetus). In fact, caffeine is bad primarily because it raises blood pressure without providing any nutrients to the fetus. This is not the case with decaf coffee. The blood pressure change associated with decaf coffee is not statistically significant and puts the baby at no risk of harm. Theoretically, if a pregnant mother drank dozens of cups of decaf coffee it might increase her blood pressure but it is very unlikely (not to mention very difficult to actually achieve that level of consumption). Most experts agree that caffeine is safe during pregnancy if limited to 200 mg or less per day.
  • Book Ends: The film opens with Marlo brushing Jonah's skin as a means to soothe him, and at the end of the film, she goes to do so again, but Jonah decides he doesn't need to be brushed.
  • A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family: Marlo has a daughter, Sarah, a son, Jonah, and another baby on the way, who turns out to be a girl named Mia.
  • Casual Kink: Marlo finds out Drew has something of a fetish for the waitress outfits of the 50's/60's.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Marlo lets a few loose when speaking to the principal of Sarah and Jonah's school since Marlo thinks they are singling Jonah out because of his autism.
  • Creature of Habit: Jonah throws a fit if his mother does things differently, like park in a different crowded lot at school.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: When the principal decides to have Jonah removed and be taught at a different school, she calls it a "dismissal" which she insists is different from being "expelled".
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Tully helps a drunk Marlo unblock her breast full of milk by using a warm towel as a compress. And Marlo's relieved and breathing heavily afterwards.
  • Double Entendre: Marlo telling Tully that "nobody's treated my whole in a really long time".
  • Dream Sequence: Marlo has dreams about mermaids, swimming underwater and Jonah screaming.
  • Fan Disservice: A brief close-up of Marlo's nipples sore and swollen from breastfeeding.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Tully mentions to Marlo that she's not as young as she looks.
    • A big clue that Marlo is the same person as Tully begins at dinner, when Marlo uses an "evil" voice to joke about murdering the chicken while swallowing a big spoonful of mashed potatos. The scene changes to that night as she's bending over to care for the baby, when Tully comes in and goes to the refrigerator, where she uses an "evil" voice to joke about ruling the world while swallowing a big spoonful of mashed potatos. Tully goes to the cot and bends over to care for the baby, as Marlo goes out in just the same way that Tully came in.
    • Marlo's reunion with her former roommate Violet has some strong lingering glances between them. Later, Marlo drunkenly admits to Tully that she was in love with Violet years ago.
    • Early in the film Marlo compares hiring a nanny to Lifetime movies that end in the mother walking around with a cane after a violent climax. That's exactly what happens to Marlo at the end of the movie.
    • According to Charlize Theron, writer Diablo Cody pitched the movie to director Jason Reitman by saying "What if you were going through something really hard in your life, and your younger self could come rescue you?".
    • A nightmare Marlo has shows her hallucinating her son Jonah getting out of the back seat and instantly appearing in the passenger seat next to her. Later it's revealed she was actually hallucinating Tully.
    • Drew needed very little convincing to have a three-way with Marlo and Tully. That's because it was actually all Marlo and Tully was only a hallucination.
  • Formerly Fit: Lampshaded, when Marlo takes off her shirt at dinner and one of the kids, staring at her large belly, asks her what was wrong with her body. She refused to answer because of, well, obvious reasons. Justified, since she has to lose a few pounds from prior pregnancies.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Marlo.
  • Heel Realization: After Marlo's car accident from her insomnia, Drew blames himself for not taking care of her and making sure she was doing okay. He promises her he'll try better.
  • Imaginary Friend: Tully turns out to be nothing but a product of Marlo's imagination.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Tully refers to this and encourages Marlo to have sex with her husband again, saying she'll wear headphones if they want to make some noise.
  • Irony: Marlo's husband Drew, her brother Craig and her sister-in-law all comment that she looks so "awake" lately. In reality, she was an insomniac.
  • Mama Bear: Marlo explodes angrily at the principal for dismissing her son Jonah from school just because he is different from the other kids.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Tully becomes a sort of platonic version of this for Marlo. As she is essentially an idealized version of Marlo from when she was 26, this makes an odd sort of sense.
  • Meaningful Name: Tully is really Marlo's maiden name.
  • Mess of Woe: The house becomes messy once Marlo delivers her third baby and goes into postpartum depression. Once Tully arrives, the house and Marlo's act gets cleaned up.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Marlo still drinks a decaf skim latte despite other cafe patron's concern about her being heavily pregnant.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Drew notices that Marlo has some moments that are extremely out of character for her, one of which is drunk driving.
  • Once More, with Clarity: After Marlo's maiden name Tully is revealed, the scenes showing her cooking and doing various activities around the house are shown without Tully being there, emphasizing that she never existed.
  • Really Gets Around: Tully mentions to Marlo that her roommate is upset that she brings lots of guys home.
  • The Reveal: Tully never existed. She was a product of Marlo's sleep deprivation and exhaustion, specifically a projection of her own younger self, and everything we saw them doing was just Marlo acting alone.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Most scenes with Tully contain hints that she is not real. For example: she has very little interaction with any other character other than Marlo, we never see her actually be contacted or hired, and she often just barges into Marlo's home and never washes her hands, not even when handling the baby.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Marlo having a dream about mermaids swimming just before her water breaks. And she's watching a reality competition show centered on the theme of mermaids while she's in labor. Later on, she is watching a children's cartoon featuring mermaids, which all may be significant to Marlo sinking into her postpartum depression overtime.
  • Sexless Marriage: Marlo and Drew. Justified since they have three kids, he has to work, she just had a baby and is suffering from postpartum depression.
  • Shout-Out:
  • A Threesome Is Hot: Zig-Zagged. Drew requires very little convincing to have sex with the younger nanny he's never met while his wife watches. His quick acceptance of this too-good-to-be-true scenario makes sense when we find out it was just him and Marlo.
  • Triple Shifter: Deconstructed. Marlo is The Insomniac and it starts to affect her sanity, which becomes a vicious cycle when she develops a split personality as her own night nanny, and seemingly hardly ever sleeps. Gets to the point that she falls asleep at the wheel and crashes her car.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Marlo vomits in the bar toilet after a night of heavy drinking with Tully.
  • Wham Line:
    • When Marlo falls asleep at the wheel and ends up in the hospital due to the car crash, Marlo's husband Drew and the audience learn that all the extra activity accomplished at home have not been from the night nanny Tully.
    Dr. Smythe: Does she have a history of mental illness?
    Drew: No. Well... Okay, I mean I guess there was some pretty bad depression when our son was born, but I mean... It's completely different this time. She's been great. She's been amazing. And you know, her brother sprang for a night nanny, so she's been getting help, she's been getting sleep, she's...
    Dr. Smythe: Actually, we think she's experiencing extreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation.
    • During the scene where Marlo is in the hospital her husband Drew is answering questions for the receptionist.
    Nurse: What's her maiden name?
    Drew: “Tully.”