Jacob Richardson | 18/04/2019
A funny, heartfelt rom-com between too mismatched stars that manages, for the most part, to avoid many of the pitfalls of this genre.
Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is a rabidly independent journalist, who quits in disgust when media mogul (and Rupert Murdoch stand-in) Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis) buys his small local paper. Flarsky and best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr) hit the town to drown his sorrows, but at a benefit featuring Boyz II Men, he runs into his old high-school babysitter Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) - a woman who has since become Secretary of State, and who is preparing for a run for President in 2020. She needs someone to punch up her speeches on the campaign trail, and Fred needs a job; little do they know, however, that amongst their tinkering with speechwriting, sparks will fly between them.
Director Jonathan Levine has made some really horrible movies (Snatched, I’m looking at you), but he has also made quite a few that manage to get the blend between comedy and romance/drama just right. Look at 50/50 or The Night Before, and you’ll see a director who can cut through the often stoner humor of Seth Rogen without losing its essence, while balancing it with a central tale of emotional redemption that is deeply affecting. Nowhere is this more on display than in his work on Warm Bodies, which managed to blend these two disparate elements perfectly.
At least, that was true up until Long Shot, because his latest film manages to top his previous work in spades. Admittedly slow to start with, Long Shot picks up as soon as our two leads lock eyes with one another. The chemistry between the two is undeniable, and Theron and Rogen work hard to make you believe in this pairing.
Theron and Rogen are both also hilarious, with two actors of their calibre nailing the comic timing to a tee. But it is their work in the more dramatic and romantic moments that is commendable. Cute scenes catching up on Marvel movies and sad ones arguing in Frank’s apartment spring to mind, showing the range of Rogen and reconfirming (as if needed) Theron’s capability.
June Diane Raphael, as the Secretary of State’s right hand woman and very much the cynical audience member’s proxy, is absolutely on point with the right blend of snarky humor and genuine care to maintain a protagonist standing. Jackson Jr works off some early jitters to become a fist-pumping crowd favourite by the end.
The film is also beautifully shot, bringing elements of hyperrealism but never becoming ‘fake’. Cinematographer Yves Belanger really plays well with light in some of the more intimate scenes; when the couple dance in a closed hall, or when they cower in a secure basement.
Most important, however, is the films strong message. In many respects this is a gender-flipped version of a typical rom-com, with a powerful female and a disempowered male at the centre. While one somewhat wishes that the story was even moreso told from Charlotte’s view, the team should be commended for managing to eschew any of the overt genre tropes or pitfalls that could have made this tale bland. You can revel in the fact that we won’t have to see a jealous Seth Rogen arguing with Charlize Theron.
Indeed, that speaks more broadly to a standout of this movie; it focuses on values, rather than emotion. There aren’t really contrived plot conveniences (outside of a sudden spark of danger). Instead, the central conceit stems from an all too real issue - the need for politicians to capitulate and compromise to get deals done, and the betrayal those invested in those ideas feel when that happens.
In the end, Long Shot definitively supports standing by those values, but it does so in a funny and touching way that will keep you smiling long after you leave the cinema.
Long Shot is funny, affecting and has a strong message at its core - what more could you want?