Long Shot

 

            Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is the classic disappointed idealist.  He works for an avant-garde newspaper, where he is celebrated for his unique blend of wit, sarcasm, invective, and raunch.  Except there's no real market for that, and so Fred finds himself sitting in front of the editor, being told that the newspaper is being taken over by the hated media conglomerate.  Yes, the very windmills Fred Flarsky has been tilting at all this time.  He can't believe it.  He feels like his boss has sold him out, so he quits in frustration.  And maybe a little bit of arrogant self-righteousness, which he cleverly disguises as social angst.  He finds his best friend, Lance (O'Shea Jackson, Jr.), and they decide to go do the only rational thing in this situation:  get wasted.

            In the course of the evening, Lance and Fred happen to run across Fred's old baby-sitter, yes, the proverbial girl next door, except Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) looks like she's happy, successful, articulate, and powerful, as the Secretary of State, whose further political ambitions are cloaked in a wide-eyed professionalism.  She's always hard at work, intensely loyal to her boss, the President (Bob Odenkirk), at least in public.  She's pragmatic enough to be willing to compromise to get what she wants.  But she doesn't realize how much she's losing sight of who she used to be.

            Fred's sudden employment, and his chance encounter with Charlotte, creates a certain opportunity:  be a speechwriter for her that can “punch up her numbers.”  Help her to appear not only insightful, but humorous.  Bring out the best side of her.  But in order to do that, Fred has to get to know her all over again.  Yes, he's entitled to the proverbial 20 questions, but that turns into a several-day marathon of self-revelation, in between stops on a worldwide tour in order to promote her clean energy initiative.

            You guessed it.  Fred and Charlotte begin to develop a chemistry, but it's awkward.  Her advisors never did like him; they think he's lacking in social graces, and an embarrassment to their well-oiled, and perfectly coiffed, political machine.  But Fred does find a way to “humanize” Charlotte's tight-lipped public persona.  She's been so busy being the perfect workaholic that she didn't realize how much she missed having any kind of relaxed conversation.  Not to mention any personal intimacy.

            Oh, yes, the sudden intimacy is unexpected, but it also creates image problems for the campaign.  All things have to be measured by public perception.  And by that harsh, glaring, and unforgiving measure, no real people stand a chance of meeting the ideal standard.

            Yes, it's unconventional, and provocative.  The “adult situations” are ribald and the language is bawdy, but somehow we root for Fred and Charlotte, because they're going with what their heart tells them, rather than their public relations advisors.  And we applaud both the vulnerability and the honesty, and appreciate both the ambiguities and the unevenness.  It feels real.

            Charlize Theron for President?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association