Long Shot (2019)
Long Shot (2019)

Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 2 hrs. 5 min.

Release Date: May 3rd, 2019 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jonathan Levine Actors: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ravi Patel, Bob Odenkirk, Andy Serkis, Alexander Skarsgard

 


 

F

red Flarsky’s (Seth Rogen) latest boundary-breaking stint of undercover journalism finds him in the midst of a group of white supremacists, infiltrating the gang’s hideout as his phone secretly records their activities. It’s a dangerous situation, wherein he’s pressured into getting a swastika tattoo as surrounding roughnecks unleash hate-filled tirades. Of course, with Rogen in the lead, there’s room for humor, too, as he unenthusiastically recites racist diatribes and offensive salutes. It’s a curious way to open the film, however, as the comedy has a difficult time overshadowing the severity of the neo-Naziism on display. For the character, it’s just another edgy venture for his column at The Brooklyn Advocate.

Meanwhile, political rising star Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), the protege of goofy, Golden Globe-nominated television-star-cum-President-of-the-United-States Chambers (Bob Odenkirk), is planning a bid for the presidency herself. News of Chambers’ intentions to forego reelection in the hope of parlaying his popularity into lucrative movie deals (something he feels is a more prestigious line of work) places Charlotte into a prime spot, as she can easily secure the President’s boosterism. Thanks to Chambers’ (and the writers’) comedic sexism, he views Charlotte as little more than a secretary, even though she’s actually the current Secretary of State. “She’s got a big brain and a couple other assets …”

Charlotte polls well in areas such as charisma and elegance, but her scores for humor are slightly lower than right-hand-woman Maggie Millikin (June Diane Raphael) would prefer. By chance, when Fred’s employer gets bought out by a large media conglomerate, pressuring him to quit in protest of the conflict of interest, he’s suddenly available to be offered a position as a speech writer for Field’s campaign, tasked with injecting a little humor into the candidate’s persona. It also helps that the two were, coincidentally, neighbors in their youths, possessing some embarrassing history that segues nicely into a budding romance.

The setup is overly convenient, but it provides an opportunity to marry two drastically opposing avenues of humor: raunchy sex comedy and political parody. Television series “Veep” might be one of the rare few to blend these subjects, but the endeavor fares similarly well here in the realm of a theatrical romcom. Rogen plays Rogen, bringing his typical slapstick, boorish sex jokes (running the gamut of boner and fart gags), drug trips, and vulgarly candid observations, all seasoned with expletives. But Theron is a revelation, managing to rein in Rogen’s outrageous dialogue to her more sensible world – a framework of political manipulation and international negotiations. Quite uncommonly – yet still effectively – the film offers up a charming, mirthful romance while also unfurling commentary on the government, the country, and routine political machinations. All the while, Theron is alternately sexy and fierce, likable and unnerving, convincing as both a down-to-earth lover and an influential bureaucrat.

“Fred, do you have any grown-up clothes to wear tonight?” As a reverse “Pretty Woman” type of plot plays out, with globe-trotting and hobnobbing with foreign dignitaries creating a foundation for impromptu coupling, unexpected dates, and even intimate gut-spilling during military crises, Charlotte and Fred’s highly contrasting, at-odds relationship grows sweeter and more moving. It’s a match that isn’t supposed to work, as Charlotte’s glamor and grace can’t be appropriately twinned by Fred’s unrefined appearance and coarse verbiage; yet the concept of flipping the traditional premise of a powerful man and an underling woman on its head is inspiring (even though it eventually shifts into a Monica-Lewinsky-spoof territory, and somewhat unfairly opts for good-natured laughs rather than a realistic vilification and crucifixion). Elements that too closely resemble reality struggle to maintain levity despite frequently resorting to pure fantasy (particularly when moral compromises are made and public perceptions outrank honesty). Nevertheless, “Long Shot” ends up a crowd-pleaser, with cute, funny, relevant humor and romance (amidst the crassness) – and even a hint of genuine emotion.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10