Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen join forces for a smart, entertaining and empowered comedy
Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen may not be an obvious pairing, but Jonathan Levine’s romantic comedy makes a virtue of that. Rogen is Fred Flarsky, a rebellious investigative journalist; she’s Charlotte Field, Secretary of State and soon to be a candidate for US President. When Fred is fired, he goes out on the lash with his mate Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr) and bumps into Charlotte, who just so happens to be his former babysitter. An unlikely working relationship and romance follow.
Serious politics and crude stoner comedy are also an unusual match, but thanks to a smart script and a strong cast, it works. Rogen does his clumsy well-meaning idiot thing, while Theron convinces as a principled politician who is struggling to balance saving the world with saving her job. Laughs come thick and fast from the writers Liz Hannah (The Post) and Dan Sterling (The Interview), who go big on the set-pieces. Fred doesn’t just do pratfalls: he tumbles downstairs, drunk and high, in front of a group of world leaders. When Charlotte asks him to score her some ‘Molly’, they don’t just get giggly down the newsagents: she winds up sky high trying to negotiate the release of a hostage.
In amongst the gags are some sincere political points, if you care to look for them: political corruption and obsession with image are recurring themes. When Charlotte’s Chief of Staff, Maggie (a hilarious June Diane Raphael), shows her boss the results of absurd public polls about her love life, you can believe they come from a real source. Perhaps less convincing, or compelling, is the romance itself. This is more about the laughs, and the refreshing prospect of an onscreen hero who is happy to support his considerably more powerful female partner. Think Knocked Up for the Trump era, with a wistful nod to Hillary Clinton and what might have been.