If you’ve already seen or don’t care for superhero marvels and want to skip seeing Juliette Binoche in something called a “fuckbox” (although, I don’t know why you would), Jonathan Levine’s Long Shot is a must-see this weekend.
Seth Rogen’s latest comedy vehicle partners him with Academy Award winner Charlize Theron in a film that is equal parts hilarity, romance, and political satire. Rogen’s Fred Flarsky is a journalist known for his vulgar political criticism, but when his paper is bought by a media conglomerate, owing to his staunch principles, he decides to quit. Now unemployed, he runs into his first crush, who just happens to be the Secretary of State. He recounts the humiliating tale of the last time he saw Theron’s Charlotte Field.
It’s pre-pubescent Fred, completely head over heels in love with his then babysitter. He kisses Charlotte, with his little 13-year-old boner being the last thing she sees. Fred, purposefully omitting the latter, re-introduces himself to Charlotte and they reconnect. The timing of their reunion couldn’t have been better, as Charlotte is looking for a speechwriter in the lead up to her announcement of a presidential run, and she is quickly taken with Fred’s humor.
Long Shot is a reversal of the dynamic we are used to seeing in the genre. In most romantic comedies, it’s the male lead who has the power role, but in this case, it’s Charlotte. But that doesn’t lead to Fred being a character who is bothered by that in the slightest. The conflict in the film has nothing to do with his own insecurities that could be caused by feeling emasculated by her power. Instead, they form a sweet dynamic with Fred supporting Charlotte in every way. Much of the conflict is caused by the general perception that a relationship like this couldn’t possibly work, especially for a woman in Charlotte’s position, who is pressured by those around her to have the best public approval rating possible. Sure, the goddess-like Charlotte may seem unattainable, but the narrative fully embraces the whole “guy gets the girl way out of his league” trope by not making it seem impossible and as realistic as any other comedy romance.
Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah’s clever screenplay is as much comedy and romance as it is satire, with the narrative inclusion of a TV personality president who wants to quit for a career in the movies. But Long Shot isn’t all about politics. Much of its discourse surrounds how the media treats women, especially women in power. We see how much harder Charlotte has to work to be seen as likable to the public. She’s criticized for not being funny enough, for having a weird wave, and all the other ridiculous things that female politicians are scrutinized for.
We see how, even though she is the most powerful woman in the world, she has to abide by “the man’s” rules. Sterling and Hannah also address double standards; how a woman is shamed for the actions of her man, and how if a man shows emotion it’s admired, but if a woman does she’s weak and a bitch. Long Shot addresses all of these elements in a genuinely funny way, but not the kind of comedy that’s offensive or diminishes the importance of those topics.
As with most films, there are some things here that don’t work – like the explosive action sequence that literally comes out of nowhere – but all of that seems insignificant when you have such a perfect lead pair. Rogen’s awkward and comedic charm is ever present and with Theron’s first turn at comedy, she delivers a hilarious performance worthy of a mic drop, proving she can do it all. And it helps when they have great material to work with. Often with Rogen comedies or comedies in general, jokes fall flat, they’re offensive, or just downright immature, but this is his most mature comedy to date. All of the jokes are pretty solid and rarely fall flat, but it still contains the raunchiness you can expect from a Rogen film. However, many of those jokes or scenes of a sexual nature end up getting oh no’s and awkward laughs from the audience more than anything.
Levine’s latest has a lot of heart and is a love story that feels genuine with Rogen and Theron, not only delivering the best comedic work of the year, but also delivering an emotionally charged performance as the pair struggles with meeting public pressures versus following their own desires. With its pop culture references and wonderful supporting cast including June Diane Raphael and O’Shea Jackson Jr., with surprise guests Alexander Skarsgård and Lisa Kudrow, Long Shot is an irresistible crowd-pleaser. And sometimes, you just want to see the Secretary of State take some “Molly” and dance to Boys II Men.
Long Shot is now in theaters worldwide