"Tully" is a movie about being a mother - an actual mother, not some dark, weird metaphor for the environment everybody except me will hate (if you missed "mother!" with Jennifer Lawrence, consider this a dare).

In "Tully," Charlize Theron is Marlo, a married mother of three pushed way passed her physical and emotional limits. Indeed, the first section of the film is exhausting - marinading us in Marlo's stress, until her rich brother suggests some help from a night nanny - someone to take care of the child at night while the parents sleep.

That night nanny arrives in the form of Tully, played by a delightfully spunky and caring Mackenzie Davis, who spouts cutesy trivia and talks like she's reading off a daily inspirational calendar. 

I realize that's the set-up for a nauseating and eye-rolling journey of self-discovery through white people problems with precious dialogue we've seen before, but the script by Oscar-winning "Juno" screenwriter Diablo Cody has a lot more going on. Saying more would be spoiling. What I can say is Cody has her finger on the pulse of parenthood and how much some mothers give of themselves.

In the same way, Theron has a history of giving herself entirely to her roles - evidenced by her Oscar for "Monster" - but if you can look beyond the 50 pounds she reportedly packed on for this part, you'll see a performance with a deep sense of knowing and accented with dry comic timing. 

The movie makes a big reach in the end that may divide audiences, but Cody and Director Jason Reitman have their hearts in the right place: an empathetic tribute to moms and a reminder you should probably call yours. 



* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year
* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles
* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing
* * Mediocre - You can do better
* Awful  - The worst, an insult to movies