This implausible, broadly-comedic romcom surprised me with its deft balance of humour and heart.
Directed by Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies), at first glance the synopsis looks a bit lame. ‘Perfect in every way’ Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is US Secretary of State and a front runner to replace the gormless US President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk) who wants to make it in the movies. She crosses paths with angry, principled and recently unemployed journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) who she babysat when he was 14 years old. Needing to improve her public profile and be seen as having a sense of humour, she employs him as her speech writer.
This is a romcom so you know we have to believe that perfectly coiffed and elegant Charlotte will fall for scruffy, hairy and rude Fred, something that at first glance seems a tall order. What makes it work is the development of both characters into something more than stereotypes. Charlotte seems to have it all but has lost sight of why she entered politics in the first place. Fred is a mess but has a good heart and a lot of courage. In each other they find a shared vulnerability as well as values.
Too often the female characters in romcoms don’t get to make the choices and are punished for being sexual, with the male character riding in at the last moment to set them right, to show them how to be happy and loved. Although the narrative arc is Charlotte’s and it is Fred who reconnects her with herself, there is always a sense of equal power and agency and Charlotte’s sexual desire is never shown as a weakness.
Theron and Rogen have believable chemistry and balance well the excesses of the comedy with the deeper messages. The script is witty with many laugh out loud moments and you can’t help but wish real life was like this.
The secondary characters are less well drawn. Although funny, Fred’s best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Junior) isn’t allowed to transcend his role as token person of colour. The Sir Les Patterson-like make up on Andy Serkis as odious media magnate Parker Wembley is distractingly noticeable, a la Mike Myers in Bohemian Rhapsody. Worth mentioning is Alexander Skarsgård as Canadian PM James Steward; he’s essentially a punchline but a delightful one.
The pace flags a little in the third act but picks up for an enjoyable and expectedly feel good ending.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.