It is timely, as we in Oz suffer another political campaign of mind-boggling superficiality and putrid populism, that in a parallel universe the prospect of uncorrupted ideals still stands a chance of winning the day. Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is the US secretary of state. Her airhead president (Bob Odenkirk) will not seek a second term, preferring to focus on a career in television. Hoping that she might win the Democratic Party’s nomination to replace him, Field must make a splash with her environmental initiative while at the same time not treading on the toes of conservative power brokers – notably Wembley, the bullying media magnate (Andy Serkis) – who won’t have a bar of saving forests etc.
To help her with speech writing, she employs the hirsute, shambolic, rabidly anti-establishment journo Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), whom she once knew as a teenager. The movie’s conflict evolves around the idea of compromise – though high-minded, Field argues that ‘you can’t run the game if you don’t play the game’, whereas Flarsky will not give an inch. Also at play is the battle of the sexes, because Field must overcome entrenched gender bias (‘are women really fit to govern at that time of the month?’ asks a grinning talk-show idiot), while Flarsky is shocked to discover that his own certainties are merely masking a set of unfounded prejudices. The couple become romantically involved, and if you can’t envisage the pairing of Theron and Rogen as an ‘item’, think again. They’re terrific together, with a lot of laughs along the way, including an hilarious sex scene – ‘I can usually go longer,’ she says; ‘not me,’ gasps Fred. Rogen’s schtick is boisterous gaucherie and, though he is at times a little too loud, he finds a surprising sensitivity when the script calls for moments of humbling self-awareness. Theron mixes femininity with toughness – she swears like a trooper – and, in the end, director Jonathan Levine’s ‘cockeyed optimism’ outweighs the harsh observations of grubbiness and double standards that prevail in the world of politics. A ripper.