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Ranking Tully's Figures of Speech

by Ilich Mejía

Seven years after fucking up Charlize Theron’s silk, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody teamed up again to fuck up just about every other fabric in her house in this year’s Tully. Here Theron plays Marlo, a soon-to-be mommy of three struggling to find room for excitement or naps in her caffeine-deprived days. Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis), the night nanny she hires to add some hours of sleep to her frustrations.

From the opening scene, Cody assures the audience she has no intention of grounding these characters in the reality that corresponds to them. Her script keeps this up throughout by frequently using figures of speech and occasional underwater reveries to buoy up the characters in their imagination. She underscores the fantasies her script's players construct and dress themselves up in (from Tahitian home bars to cat ears headbands) with an equally rhetorical language. We've ranked enough of our favorite metaphors and similes from Tully, we can already hear the wheels of your high school English teacher’s TV cart rolling up to your classroom.

Ten of our favorite lines and very wet spoilers after the cut...

10. “Drew was a bench.” Tully asks Marlo how she settled on her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) after "riding every horse in the carousel". Marlo insists she picked him because he was a bench. After having kids, their relationship plateud emotionally and their sex life began to suffer. Marlo alludes to her husband's escapes, about how he's occupies himself with a semi-ambitious job and loud zombie killing. He is the most explicitly disconnected from the real world as we see him put on a headset every night to help him drown out what is actually happening in his house. Oddly, Tully envies the life Marlo has built with Drew because that bench gives Marlo the stability her life craved and saved her from the carousel's endless looping.

9. "Just being your own best friend?" Smart boy, that Jonah.

8. "You pretty much are the baby." Tully's third-act reveal works so well because of how effortlessly Davis and Cody subvert the manic pixie dream girl trope by building a fleshed out character who encourages, not stifles, growth. She is more than a funhouse mirror that shows Marlo how her cleverness and fun-fact arsenal has slightly corroded. Seeing all the knowledge and relationships her younger self nurtured makes Marlo grateful for the family she has, even as she misses what she sees. The imagined world she escapes to when Tully shows up isn't so imagined. She's not done growing and a start to continue is to stop romanticizing what she used to be like because just by looking at the waves in Davis' eyes, we can tell she used to be much more than just a dream.

7. "You're more of an Ash. He's this tantric, Indian gigolo." Marlo's fascination with the Showtime classic Gigolos shows encourages her to help herself, so to speak. Leave it to a show about quasi sex surrogates that help their clients to put Tully's help, as she lets Marlo run away from a life she thinks she's limited to, into a more maternal perspective. It's no coincidence its airtime often coincides with Tully's arrival at her door. Cody understands how the media we consume lets in delusion, but also healing, in strange ways.

6. "Do I have a kid or a fucking ukelele? Say what you mean." The use of metaphors is most obvious when referring to Marlo's middle child Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), whose unpinnable condition invites everyone he's surrounded by to replace him with what they think he resembles. Marlo defends him after hearing even those who have his best interest in mind, like his father and the school's principal, replace him with quirk. It's a refreshing release that starts to connect Marlo to the struggles of her son's life, and her own.   

5. "I'm like Saudi Arabia. I have an energy surplus." Is something you stop saying after age 26. 

4. "Mommy's joking, honey. Like a clown." Cody's script does a great job depicting how the best efforts towards good parenting don't always work out for the parent. Or the kids. It's suggested that Marlo suffered from post partum depression after Jonah was born, but she appears to be in a much better place right before her third comes in. There still seems to be a ways to go, however. After Marlo jokes about wanting to kill herself, Drew steps in to clarify she's only joking because he understands how seriously the kids think about their mother. Sarah (Lia Frankland) in particular, despite having her own hints of disconnect as she often plays dress up, pays great attention to her mother. Marlo tells Tully Sarah is becoming more self-consious which explains why she seeks out the efforts of other females more carefully. She notices changes in Marlo's body and behavior that show Marlo her actions matter because her children pick up on them without footnotes to help them understand their meaning.

3. "If she's a barnacle, are you a boat or are you a whale?" Where the barnacle is Tully's third child, Mia. Tully suggests Mia can either inconvenience or embellish Marlo's life and the choice is entirely hers. Marlo later posits that if you replace all the planks of a wooden ship until every plank of the original has been replaced, it is then to be considered a new ship. After having children and different interests and experiences, Marlo initially finds Tully unrecognizable. It takes a catastrophic car accident to let her see how much she's evolved and how, despite having lost some seemingly valuable planks, she's not in this alone.  

2. "I feel like an abandoned trash barge." Because we love a reference that requires a convoluted explanation.

1. "The world is a loud toilet!" Theron's performance, previously praised by Nathaniel and Chris, is evenly great, but especially when her Marlo shares the screen with Jonah. The movie opens with Marlo trying to distort Jonah's world through the Wilbarger Protocol. It confuses Jonah and doesn't prove to be as effective as YouTube alleges, but he initially goes with it. Marlo tells Tully that she brushes Jonah "like a horse" (note the wallpaper) to help him, but once she's done she can't protect him from every one of the constantly loud flushes the world will scream his way. In one of the film's closing moments, Jonah finally questions the purpose of the brushing, asking his mother if it's real. Marlo can't explain why they've been doing this every night for the last few weeks, but she can agree she likes being by him. And maybe that's all that matters.

Tully is now out on VOD, DVD, and blu-ray. 

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Reader Comments (6)

Most underrated film of the year so far. LOVE this article. I really hope Diablo Cody can get some awards heat for the screenplay - it's so great. Can't wait to revisit this.

August 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

I loved this film, Theron is simply sublime in this role, and Diablo Cody deserves an award for the writing. It's a bookend to the film Young Adult. Any doubters about Theron's talent should be directed to watch these 2 films.

August 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Just watched this! Such a smart script! Great article.

August 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBushwick

what @LadyEdith say plus

I want a Diablo-Théron-Reitman movie from 18/24 months to 18/24 months. The world need this 'Universe' (sorry Marvel / DC Studios)

August 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterjon

God I hope Theron and Cody get Oscar nominations. Sublime indeed.

August 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

@LadyEdith after the last few years, I don't think there are doubters about Theron's talent anymore.

August 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLucky

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