CHARLIZE AIMS TO PLEASE
There’s a sweet romance at the heart of this satirical swipe at American politics . ..and Ms Theron is a comedy revelation
Long Shot (15) Verdict: Exuberant rom-com Tolkien (12A) Verdict: Big-hearted biopic
AS THe title implies, Long Shot is about a wild improbability. Principally, that someone who looks like Charlize Theron might fall for someone who looks like Seth Rogen, especially when he is a dishevelled, hapless, unemployed journalist and she is the impeccably-groomed U.S. Secretary of State, preparing a run for the presidency itself.
If leaps of the imagination were measured in metres, that would require a new Olympic record.
Yet the cleverness of Jonathan Levine’s exuberant romantic
comedy does Charlotte Fred couple, credibly back in Flarsky make thanks their is prosaic Field that suburban us not (Rogen) (Theron) it detail believe least somehow youth, to that, as and the in a she twice At used any as to believable rate, be his it’s babysitter. as at Prime least Downing Minister Hugh Street Grant assistant and Martine getting it together McCutcheon in 2003’s Love Actually.
Moreover, the President she is hoping to succeed, delightfully played by Bob Odenkirk, is a crass dimwit, hopelessly out of his depth in the Oval Office, who got there purely because he’d made his name on television.
Now that many of us are able to believe in that particular long shot, it duly shortens the odds of all the others.
Hapless and dishevelled he might be, but Fred is also brave and principled. He gives up his job as an investigative reporter rather than work for the rapacious media tycoon ( Andy Serkis) who has just bought his paper and has a raft of what might be termed dubious views, for example that gay marriage is directly responsible for the world’s hurricanes.
This is satire by bludgeon rather than rapier, but no less effective for it. The writers are Dan Sterling, whose credits are mostly in American TV comedy (The Office, South Park), and Liz Hannah, who co- wrote the 2017 movie The Post.
They have crafted a truly guffaw-worthy script, but it needs a pair of classy comedy performers to make it sing. Rogen is as reliably funny as ever, but Theron is the revelation here.
She’s done comedy before, but never with material as strong as this ( exhibit A: Seth Macfarlane’s dire 2014 effort A Million Ways To Die In The West).
Anyway, with Fred out of work and Charlotte one of the most recognisable people in the world, they meet at a party. Back in the babysitting years, she thought him amusing and sweet, and, unsurprisingly, was his first (conspicuous) crush.
They get talking. She likes the cut of his jib, especially when he extravagantly berates the horrid media mogul.
MeANWHILe,Charlotte’s image consultant ( Lisa Kudrow) thinks that she needs to be jollied up in the eyes of the electorate, so Fred is hired as her speech writer.
The dim-witted President has by now decided he won’t seek re-election. He wants to get into the movies, citing George Clooney and Woody Harrelson as others who have made the leap from TV to the silver screen.
With her eyes on the big prize, Charlotte heads off on a world tour to sell a new environmental
initiative. Fred goes with, and to the dismay of her aides, who keep trying to fix her up with the dishy-but- dull Canadian Prime Minister (Alexander Skarsgard), love begins to brew. It’s the silliest but funniest rom- com I’ve seen for ages.
TOLKIeN, though a much more sober affair, is also driven by love. It is about the passion that J.R.R. Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult), creator of The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, had for his wife, edith (Lily Collins). But in telling the story of his early years, it also chronicles his love for his friends, and for language itself. It is a likeable picture, a bit anodyne in parts,
rather clunky in others, but it has great heart.
It opens on nightmarishly familiar images of the Somme, and then whisks us back in time to show us young Ronald’s eventful early childhood. Around the turn of the 20th century, his widowed mother — the person who auspiciously first filled his head with stories of dragons and derring do — falls on what she calls ‘impecunious circumstances’, and uproots Ronald and his younger brother from a rural idyll to sooty Birmingham.
But then she dies, and his guardian, a kindly Catholic priest (Colm Meaney), moves the orphaned Ronald (played at this stage by Harry Gilby) to a kind of middle-class orphanage owned by a pompous matron (Pam Ferris). That’s where he falls for Edith, who becomes the love of his life.
Finnish director Dome Karukoski’s film explores their burgeoning relationship, and her influence on him, but also dwells on his coterie of schoolfriends, with whom Ronald forms a club, indeed a fellowship, devoted to ‘changing the world through the power of art’.
His brilliant mind continues to broaden at Oxford, where he is mentored by a venerable professor of Middle English, sweetly played by Derek Jacobi. But it is his friends who influence him most, and he becomes especially attached to one of them, aspiring poet Geoffrey Bache Smith (Anthony Boyle).
Later, in one of the flits back and forth to the Somme, we see him and Geoffrey endlessly calling each other’s name on the battlefield, in a scene meant to be deeply poignant, though the cynics among you will wonder whether they shouldn’t perhaps be attempting to kill Germans rather than trying to locate each other like Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in the briny at the end of Titanic. Never mind. Tolkien, for all its slight deficiencies, is a highly watchable film.
Aptly, for a biopic of perhaps the greatest of all fantasy writers, it is nicely written, by Stephen Beresford — who scripted the hugely engaging 2014 film Pride — and David Gleeson.
And while it no doubt takes plenty of dramatic licence, it is hard to see what might offend the author’s surviving relatives, who have strenuously objected to it being made at all.
A LONGER review of Tolkien appeared in Wednesday’s Mail.
Dishevelled but delightful: Seth Dim: Bob Rogen and Charlize Odenkirk Theron. in Inset: Long Shot Hoult as J.R.R. Tolkien