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kenmorefield

Tully (2018)

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**********SPOILERS****************

I have moved the discussion of Tully from the 2019 Top 25 Nominations thread because it contains major plot spoilers. Please do not read this thread if you have not seen the film and do not wish to have major plot points revealed.

 

 

So I watched the first hour of Tully and turned it off after the sex scene. How did I know it was going there from the first scene of the movie? 

In principle, I agree with the Ebertian notion that a film is moral or immoral not because of what it is about but how it was about it. I imagine I could get behind a movie where a couple rediscovered their sexual passions post-childbirth through the use of a surrogate, where a woman challenged the cultural notions of motherhood through experience, where a difficult child precipitates a family crisis (I'm thinking of Doris Lessing's The Fifth Child). 

But there's something so damn smug and condescending about this movie that it sets my teeth on edge. It has zero interest in examining its assumptions and is constructed to make any criticism of any of these people (except, of course, the husband, since it is told from the wife's POV). That would be fine if the film would just own what it is -- a "fantasy." But the best fantasy's stem from and empower you to live in the real world, not escape from it.

I started imagining Tully as a Christian film, with essentially the same plot only with Tully, instead of doing cosplay and having the couple in a threesome goes up with a Bible pamphlet and teaches them how to pray. Quick fixes to complex psychological, emotional, and spiritual pain always ring false to me, and the film, like most all Christian films has zero interest in interrogating its own answers,. It invests all its energy into depicting the problem so that anyone who questions the proposed solution is a monster who is indifferent to the "anything must be better than this" argument. 

 

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6 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

So I watched the first hour of Tully and turned it off after the sex scene. How did I know it was going there from the first scene of the movie?

Fair enough. But I think your interpretation of the film--if you haven't read a plot synopsis by now--may be missing some key revelations which come late in the film.

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For the record, I hated Tully, but there are some later plot twists which make your interpretation of that scene quite unfair.

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Possible Spoilers???

Anytime someone walks out on a movie (or turns off a DVD), I suppose he or she is on thin ice. The thought had occurred to me that Tully was Sixth Senseing or Fight Clubbing it, what with the early scene of the kid kicking the car that turns out to be a dream (always a tell those no-difference-between-how-dreams-are-shot-and-reality) as well as the husband's initial comment about how he didn't wake up and see her and Charlize's response the morning after the sex. Given the number of people who have responded, I suspect if it's not that, it's something close to it. But really nothing in Diablo Cody's body of work made me think I would gain anything by seeing how it played out.

I liked Reitman's The Front Runner and large portions of Up in the Air, Thanks for Smoking, and, yes, even Labor Day. But I don't think his direction does much for Cody's writing (or vice-versa).

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4 minutes ago, Evan C said:

For the record, I hated Tully, but there are some later plot twists which make your interpretation of that scene quite unfair.

I'm not sure that I buy that the later plot twist (which I just looked up via another article) makes the interpretation of the scene unfair. How it is presented in the context of the movie is more off-putting than the thing itself, whether it was real, imagined. There are better ways of telling the same story.

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Just now, kenmorefield said:

I'm not sure that I buy that the later plot twist (which I just looked up via another article) makes the interpretation of the scene unfair. How it is presented in the context of the movie is more off-putting than the thing itself, whether it was real, imagined. There are better ways of telling the same story.

Good point, and I agree with you that Reitman's directing and Cody's writing do not complement one another.

 

[SPOILERS]

I meant the threesome doesn't happen in reality, because Tully isn't real, but it's near impossible to determine that from the film's presentation of it.

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7 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

The thought had occurred to me that Tully was Sixth Senseing or Fight Clubbing it

I described it on Twitter as "Fight Club for Moms," and SDG kindly chided me for spoilers. :) What I think your interpretation is also missing, Ken, is the film's ultimate critique of such fantasies and its celebration of living in reality, as well as its (somewhat problematic) consideration of Marlo's mental health and the effects of stress and sleep deprivation. And while it's not a film I loved--I rated it 6/10--I think it's more than just being exploitative or crass, and Davis and Theron's performances are quite good.

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13 hours ago, Evan C said:

Good point, and I agree with you that Reitman's directing and Cody's writing do not complement one another.

 

[SPOILERS]

I meant the threesome doesn't happen in reality, because Tully isn't real, but it's near impossible to determine that from the film's presentation of it.

There are, as I mentioned, a couple of pretty obvious clues that the film is heading in that direction. 

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6 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

What I think your interpretation is also missing, Ken, is the film's ultimate critique of such fantasies and its celebration of living in reality, as well as its (somewhat problematic) consideration of Marlo's mental health and the effects of stress and sleep deprivation.

 

It is possible that the film does a 180 in the last 30 minutes, but if it does, then it is pretty garbled. If it doesn't, I disagree that its a "celebration" of living in reality. 

I was only 1/2 kidding in my comparison to War Room. I think Tully has a serious disconnect that stems from its commitment to making it be a twist. Who cleans the house? Who makes the Minion cupcakes? Who cooks the dinner? Tully's introductory line is "I'm here to take care of you." The way she does so, at least at first, is by providing relief from sleep deprivation, exhaustion, etc. Making Tully a projection of Marlo's former self seems to me to radically alter how her problem is conceived. Is Marlo's problem that she is dealing with unrealistic societal expectations (she should be able to do all this, and well) or that she's lost her youthful motivation? The jogging scene seems key in that Tully's work has provided just enough of a buffer that Marlo is willing to marshall her remaining resources to do something for herself that is hard but will make her feel better. 

Also, as regards the sex. The morning after, dad says something like, "Are we going to talk about last night?" and she says somethign to the effect of, "no, we don't have to." To be precise, that's the exact moment I turned it off. That's very War Room to me. The answer to fixing your marriage is to be more what he wants you to be. You were the superwoman before, you can be again. There's a grain of truth in that you can't change anyone but yourself, but Marlo's conversation with Tully indicates some deeper (and understandable) anger at her husband. He guilts her when she floats the idea of getting help. He puts on his headphones and plays video games when she needs help. Answer? Make yourself his fantasy. Revive his passion. But, hey, when that provides an opening for actual communication, no, don't talk to him, just do for him. I tend to think the film presents dad as useless, and maybe this is because the film is inflected through Marlo's point of view and maybe it is aware that her point of view (even of him) is distorted due to stress. But I saw nothing in the first hour that suggested that Tully is part of a greater problem of distorted thinking. Maybe there's an epiphany later in the film. Either way, I think it's poor, convoluted writing.

One other thought. (Boy, I really did hate this movie, didn't I?) For our list on Growing Older, it bothers me that Theron and the actress who play Tully describe Tully as not just a fantasy projection but a *younger* version of Marlo. So unlike a healthier (and closer to my experience) instance in which an older version of a person talks to the younger, confused version of him/herself and helps, with the benefit of age or wisdom, that younger person to see what he/she couldn't, this appears to be set up as the far less interesting cultural assumption that our younger selves are our best selves...more idealistic, more full of hope and energy. It's hard for me to read this any other way than that Marlo's problem is not systemic, it is personal. She has lost something. She has grown old. And that's a bad thing. And the solution is rediscovering her youth. That's a big part of why I call the film (or the parts I saw) smug and condescending. There's very little (none really form what I saw) interrogation of that assumption that younger is better, healthier, and what will save old. Again, maybe there's a move towards integrating the selves at the 11th hour to carve out a happier ending than what would appear to be the natural conclusion of the initial narrative (i.e. a renewed affirmation and internalization of the unrealistic standard society puts on women/mothers). If so, that would make it better than War Room, but only just. 

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1 hour ago, kenmorefield said:

She has lost something. She has grown old. And that's a bad thing. And the solution is rediscovering her youth.

I think your overall analysis is pretty thorough for basing it on only a portion of the film, but, again, you may be missing something significant here. I'm about to leave my office so I can't dig into the depths of it, but I think the film is actually much more critical of the younger self, and Marlo needs to both reconcile her previous life with her current one, as well as remember/recall that her present (older) life is actually the one she aspired to having in the first place. So, the solution is not merely rediscovering her youth, but addressing it as the fantasy/idol it is, which requires going through the confrontation and even embrace of that idol before letting it go. Now, I may be reading it more positively and a re-watch would bring up more critiques--I do think the film excuses Tully more than it should, and the realistic/fantasy element begins to break down considerably if you really think about it--but I think concluding that Tully is arguing that growing older is inherently negative while rediscovering youth is better doesn't hold up. We could also discuss the husband's adolescent behavior (the video games, etc.) and thus the stunted growth (he hasn't grown up, which is problematic).

All this being said, Ken, your observation about sex and communication are totally valid and consistent with where the film goes.

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49 minutes ago, Joel Mayward said:

I think your overall analysis is pretty thorough for basing it on only a portion of the film, but...

 

Fair enough. As I've tried to imply, this is more about explaining why I gave up on the film than it is a comprehensive analysis of the film itself. As such, there is a focus on what it is or was to that point and how any changes I could foresee would not be part of an organic whole. I tried to acknowledge that there is, of course, always potential that the film could go in unexpected directions. But there is a difference between a direction being unexpected because it is unanticipated (the I-didn't-see-that-coming sort of thing) and it being unexpected because it is not set up by the rest of the film. I've gotten three or four notes, here and on letterbox saying I should finish the film. I presume that the impetus behind them is the genuine belief that if I saw the rest of it I would feel differently about the whole. What I am trying to communicate is that: a) the direction the film apparently goes is not/was not wholly unanticipated before I turned it off; and, b] the things I disliked about the film would still have more to do with how it arrived at the conclusions it did than about what those conclusions actually were.

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4 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I've gotten three or four notes, here and on letterbox saying I should finish the film.

Ah, I'm not suggesting you should finish the film--don't waste your time if you already hated it! I only wanted to point out where your interpretation/analysis might be addressed by later revelations in the film. But yeah, Tully isn't exactly a masterpiece.

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