Long Shot is terrific and probably a lot funnier than you think it will be, based on the trailers, which suggest that Long Shot is a throwback to the romcoms of the early aughts. And it is, if those aughts romcoms had been run through the Seth Rogen filter (Long Shot is written by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah, but it very much traffics in the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg vibe). It’s very funny — hysterically so at times — but it doesn’t subvert any rom-com tropes so much as it gently pokes at them. It’s a broad studio comedy designed to appeal to as many people as possible, but it’s also raunchy and sexual, because Long Shot also wants to appeal to Rogen’s fanbase. Director Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Wackness) does a great job of merging the two tones to make a movie that fans of both Pineapple Express and The Wedding Planner will legitimately enjoy.
In Long Shot, Charlize Theron plays Charlotte Field, the Secretary of State to President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk), a guy who seems to be one part George W. Bush and one part Donald Trump. He’s decided not to run for reelection (the job pays too little) and has promised his endorsement to Charlotte contingent upon a few conditions that come up throughout the film but that mostly require Charlotte to compromise her values in order to win an election. In other words, to be a politician. Charlotte, in fact, is a very good politician, though it has come at the expense of her social life, which is poll-tested and micromanaged right down to whom she can be seen with in public (Alexander Skarsgård is absolutely terrific here as a sort of creepy, robotic stand-in for Justin Trudeau, with whom Charlotte has a romantic arrangement of convenience. If you thought it was impossible for Skarsgård to look unappealing, Long Shot will put that belief to the test).
Enter Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), a f**k-the-man sort of journalist who loses his job at an alternative newspaper when it is bought out by a corporate schmuck. While wallowing in his misery with his best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr., who is great), Flarsky encounters Charlotte at a cocktail party. Charlotte used to be his babysitter, and Flarsky had a huge crush on her, which led to an unfortunately awkward teenage moment involving an inappropriate boner. Charlotte ends up hiring Flarsky to help her punch up some of her speeches as she’s embarking on a Presidential run, and as one might expect, a romantic spark catches fire and threatens to derail Charlotte’s well-laid plans to become President.
And I know what you’re thinking! A character played by Charlize Theron falling in love with a character played by Seth Rogen? Well, yeah, I get it, and it’s part of the joke here. But the two actually do have really good chemistry together and make for a terrifically likable pair (although, it’s really hard to get past Flarksy’s dreadful fashion choices). Otherwise, it operates like most romcoms do, with the stellar best friend roles (June Diane Raphael is reason enough alone to see Long Shot) and contrived situations, only the sexual dynamic here is more raunchy and less traditionally “romantic.”
But it works, right up until it begins to fall apart in the third act when the refreshingly flipped gender roles start to unflip and it becomes more of a “Seth Rogen movie” than a “Charlize Theron movie featuring Seth Rogen.” Also, the politics of it get messy when the film begins preaching the politics of a bygone era (why can’t Republicans and Democrats find common ground!), which makes some sense for a script written in 2012 before the rise of the alt-right. But it’s also a studio comedy, and no matter how many dick jokes it can fit in, it’s still going to revert to formula. It doesn’t stop Long Shot from being a funny and legitimately enjoyable movie, but it does prevent it from becoming a memorable one.
(Full Disclosure: I originally screened ‘Long Shot’ at the SXSW film festival, where the studio provided the entire audience with free drinks, Charlize and Seth were completely smashed during the Q&A, and Boys 2 Men performed for the audience — and threw roses to every female member on staff in attendance — while Charlize drunkenly grinded on one of the band members. It did not affect my opinion of the film, but it was the single most enjoyable experience I’ve had in 12 years of film festivals.)
Header Image Source: Summit Entertainment