Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is a passionate, diligent journalist who refuses to compromise and, when his newspaper is bought out by a sleazy corporation, he finds himself on the skids. To cheer up, he’s taken to a party by his wealthy best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) where he meets Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), US secretary of state and his childhood babysitter. After a heartfelt conversation, she employs him as a speechwriter and their friendship turns into something more, despite warnings from her advisers.
This is an absolutely bog-standard rom-com, complete with career ambitions, a sneaky night of hedonistic abandon and the obligatory temporary breakup at the end and creepy rival (played amusingly by Alexander Skarsgård). It tries to differentiate itself from the pack with political edginess and sexual gross-out humour, but its script is so simplistic that it never rises above adolescent banter. This is not Veep-level writing here. The characters are aggressively two-dimensional.
In addition that, there’s barely a chuckle to be had, unless merely mentioning drugs and sex is enough to make you laugh. Jokes aren’t set up and punchlines aren’t delivered: People just say inappropriate things.
It’s hard not to get the feeling that it’s pandering to young men with its vision of a stunning female politician willing to stoop to a schlub like Fred while simultaneously pandering to young women with its vision of a sensitive, idealistic politician who has inexplicably managed to rise through the Washington meatgrinder. It also panders to its younger audience by congratulating them on their pop-culture savvy. Its lack of cynicism feels very cynical indeed.
If there’s one moment to be commended, it’s a heart-to-heart chat where Lance reveals his true political and religious commitments to the strident Fred, gratifyingly taking him down a peg.
In all, despite its weaknesses and despite being completely unbelievable, the film is never unbearable. The characters are flat but they’re not unlikeable. If you like mindless, formulaic rom-coms, this is one and you might like it. I didn’t, though.
In cinemas May 2