MAY 4, 2018 -- Fourteen years ago, actress Charlize Theron won a best actress Oscar for her gripping role in "Monster", a film in which the model-like star toned down her good looks so much you looked twice to recognize her. And now fourteen years later Ms Theron is barely recognizable as a haggard mother of two with a baby on the way and in what could only be called a utilitarian marriage.


She nails this performance even moreso than as her Aileen Wuornos character in "Monster". She is 50 pounds overweight, flabby, and unadorned. She is not the slinky vixen that made all the little boys happy in Ĉon Flux in 2005 or the super hot Stella in "The Italian Job" or even the good looking Ravenna from "Snow White and the Huntsman". No, she looks more like one of those women from The people of Walmart blog.


In this story inked by Diablo Cody ("Juno") Theron plays Marlo who is a mother of two to Sarah (Lia Frankland) and Jonah (Asher Mile Fallica) who happens to be a special need kid. He has cognitive issues which Marlo tries to calm by brushing his skin... but with little noticeable effect.

To make her life more interesting, she and husband Drew (Ron Livingston) are expecting a third child any minute now. Their finances are already tight, even though Drew works hard, but there is little time for them and he hardly has time for the children; Jonah naturally requires extra parenting time.


On top of that, Jonah and Sarah's school wants to bounce Jonah out because they don't have the extra personnel needed to tend to his special needs. They want Marlo and her husband to provide an attendant or send the boy to another school.


Marlo's brother Craig (Mark Duplass) is quiet wealthy and, after she gives birth to her new baby, offers Marlo a gift of a night nanny so that she can at least get a good night's sleep. After a few days of struggling, Marlo gives in and accepts the gift. The new nanny - named Tully (MacKenzie Davis) - arrives one evening and immediately takes over; in a good way.


Life becomes better to say the least and Marlo and Tully bond like old friends and that's all I can say about the plot without spoilers. But I must say the film left me with a big question mark until I thought about it for a couple of minutes and had an "Aha!" moment. That's when you realize it's brilliance.


You will be so rapt in the wonderful chemistry between Marlo and Tully; you will be so taken by Theron's super strong performance, that you will probably miss all the little subtle hints (like the theme song from "You Only Live Twice" sung in the background). There are scenes that might raise your eyebrow, that will suddenly make sense in the end.


But the most brilliant aspect is director Jason Reitman casting Theron in the lead and allowing her to put on an acting clinic. Indeed the entire ensemble works flawlessly.


"Tully" is a brilliantly written and superbly acted film that may earn Charlize Theron at least another Oscar nomination in 2019. The story is dramatically light and entertaining all the way up to your "Aha!" moment.   -- GRADE A --   GEOFF BURTON