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

Daily Mail - - It's Friday! - byBrian Viner

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

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