Long Shot brings together Academy Award winner Charlize Theron and stoner comedy regular Seth Rogen for a romantic comedy set in the world of American politics. It falls squarely into the current trend of self-aware rom-coms that aim to deconstruct the genre in a somewhat meaningful way. While Long Shot doesn’t achieve everything it aims to, the film goes farther than it needs to, based on the chemistry of its two leads.
Charlotte Field (Theron) is the current Secretary of State, who is aiming for a presidential run after the current president, an unqualified buffoon (wink) chooses not to seek re-election. Fred Flarsky (Rogen) recently quit his job writing for an edgy Brooklyn alternative paper in a huff after receiving news that the company was bought by a media conglomerate. The two meet at an event and remember they’re childhood friends. Charlotte gives Fred a job writing speeches for her campaign, and romance and political power dynamics ensue.
Seth Rogen is finally beginning to wear out his welcome for me. The first act of this movie is incredibly shaky, and it’s all because of him. His specific brand of stoner-dudebro humor that paid his bills for the last decade simply doesn’t work anymore, and once the script finally asks him to do more, he becomes more interesting to watch. Until then, he’s the guy at an important political event with lots of people in suits, wearing a teal blue windbreaker, sporting a baseball cap and an unkempt beard. And while his whole thing worked for me ten years ago, it’s beginning to wear increasingly thin. Also, there’s a moment where his character throws shade at Jennifer Aniston, clearly a moment for Rogen to be on his own soapbox, and no one in my press screening reacted positively.
Charlize Theron, however, is doing excellent work, playing a more multifaceted character. She’s a person who entered the realm of American politics for the right reasons but can’t quite remember what they are after being consumed by the political machine. She wants to let loose and have a good time, but is hyper-aware of why she can’t. Theron is icy and professional in one moment, and truly hilarious the next. She’s an actress who is constantly defying audience expectations, and every project gives her something unexpected and fresh to work with. This entire movie is saved because of how expertly these two actors play off each other, and how natural their romance feels against all odds. The viewer can’t help but root for them even when they’re exhibiting questionable behavior that would easily sink a politician’s career in real life.
The film also has a pretty stellar supporting cast. O’Shea Jackson Jr., from Straight Outta Compton and Ingrid Goes West, is Rogen’s best friend, and he’s funny and enjoyable to watch. June Diane Raphael, from Netflix’s Grace and Frankie and the How Did This Get Made? podcast is one of Charlotte’s staffers who is skeptical of Rogen’s character. Raphael is an actress with icepick-sharp comedic timing, and I’d like to see her get more lead (or at least featured) work in films like this. Bob Odenkirk is the national-embarrassment president, and since real-life politics have become a parody of itself, it’s difficult for him to go bigger than that. Andy Serkis, however, in a fat suit and lots of makeup, plays the creepy nemesis of Rogen’s character, and he’s unrecognizable and very funny.
Jonathan Levine, who directed the excellent 50/50, re-collaborates with Rogen for Long Shot. This is a more complicated shoot, involving lots of international locations, and he makes every stop on the team’s world tour look beautiful, even when there’s a war going on outside. However, running at a full two hours, it’s a bit too long, and the film has some pacing issues in the first half that thankfully are less of a problem in the second. What’s going on here is essentially a gender-swapped 90’s rom-com (think Pretty Woman), and while it doesn’t deconstruct genre conventions in a particularly shrewd way, it remembers what the audience likes so much about the romantic comedy.
What saves the day here is the chemistry between Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen. They seem like two people who have been friends for a long time, and despite the unlikeliness of their romance, it seems totally true and heartfelt and you do ultimately root for this couple. There are some questionable gender-role dynamics at play, but the script is smart enough to call them out when they happen. It’s not a perfect film. It’s a little long and certain plot beats ring false, but in typical crowd-pleaser rom-com fashion, none of this matters once we reach the credits.