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Review: Long Shot

by Chris Feil

The year ahead of any presidential election always comes with a middling political satire stumbling toward zeitgeist. Remember Swing Vote? Probably not.

This preamble year’s attempt, Jonathan Levine’s Long Shot, also blends that recurring genre with one that feels as periodically common these days - it’s also romantic comedy. Here Charlize Theron plays Charlotte Field, Secretary of State to an incompetent but popular president not seeking a second term, with her chances at launching a presidential run hingeing on the success of her new global green initiative. Her romantic foil comes with Seth Rogen’s Fred Flarsky, a journalist brought aboard as Charlotte’s speechwriter to help boost her approval ratings.

But it’s not just Fred’s witty journalistic approach that helps Charlotte reveal her authenticity to the masses, it’s the boyish crush he’s had for her since she was his teenage babysitter. To the film’s credit, it’s much sweeter (and a lot less creepy) than it sounds.

As with Levine’s previous efforts, the film is only half there in its comedic composure. Long Shot takes a jerky half hour to get warmed up, both in kickstarting the actual plot and in delivering an effective comic sensibility. Once it finds its footing, it turns to some jet-setting, drug-hazed mania that struggles to match the gifts of its star performers. While the antics strain credibility, it keeps reaching for prescience - it casts a wide net of skewering our political climate without any precise aims, leaving Theron and Rogen to thread its casually adorable tone. They’re more natural performers, but Long Shot is kind of a lazy try-hard.

It’s a bit out of touch and overly broad, neither cutting enough nor keeping pace with our rapidly evolving political dialogue. As you watch the film, you would swear it was a charming artifact from three or so years ago. The sharpest political jabs come from Alexander Skarsgård’s dopey Justin Trudeau stand-in.

However, a large part of what makes Long Shot work so well on its romcom elements is the organic chemistry built between Theron and Rogen. The film lays hard on their supposed opposites (particularly Fred's hipster tackiness), but the pair makes an unexpected romantic duo that’s more refreshing not because of perceptions but because they play quite well off of eachother. Chemistry is the genre’s most important ingredient, and theirs is what makes Long Shot ultimately enjoyable.

The film’s most surprising element, and perhaps the thing that makes it succeed most when it is focusing on the romance, is that it remains deeply affectionate toward and referential towards its own genre. But one key movie reference smartly plays off our relationship with these kind of movies, ultimately providing some perspective on Fred’s pinings and Charlotte’s sense of self-compromise. It doesn’t upend conventions, but its vaguely meta insights feel fresher than any of its political takes.

There’s a heavy serving of not fully integrated 90s nostalgia, with the smoothness of Dave and The American President’s romance/politics balance apparently omitted from syllabus. Despite all of its welcome and well-earned charm, Long Shot is ultimately to scattered to make much of an impression.

Grade: C

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Reader Comments (13)

It's a pity. It seems that Hollywood definitely unlearned to make romantic comedies or romances with a touch of comedy. There are the actors, the directors, certainly the audience, but there are no good ideas and mainly no good scripts.

May 2, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGwen

This has the stank of a flop? I just don't get this.

May 2, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJono

I've heard mostly positive reactions to this. I was thinking Charlize Theron had another Globe comedy nomination in the bag.

May 2, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Yeah this goes against the general consensus that this is one of the more refreshing comedies to come out in a while. I think it’s going to play well. Can’t beat Seth and Charlize!

May 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGazza

Seems fun and not hung up on inclusion,diversity,metoo,Trumpbashing,empowerment,i'm in,just a good old fashioned style rom com.

May 3, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

All we can do is pray for this to be good. I think word of mouth will help or kill this movie.

May 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFeline Justice

I know Theron won an oscar for drama, but comedy is where she truly excels. It’s really all she should do, she is so damn good at it.

Rogen’s an underrated actor.

May 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

Charlize seems really young to be a Secretary of State. I know it's a romcom, and a certain degree of unbelievability is to be expected, but it would have been nice if the leads were 10 years older.

May 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

markgordonuk - why are you such an awful person lmfao

May 3, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

They are two of my favorite Hollywood people, so I am totally there for them this weekend!

May 3, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Adore both of them, so biased. Loved it. Great chemistry. Very funny. A dab of politics that both sides could agree on. Loved it! The audience applauded.

May 5, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterForever1267

I am really looking forward to this one. Charlize is a comic goddess, our own Myrna Loy for our times. To change topics, I have to say that the billing for this movie reeks of sexism. Why is her name second? It makes no sense at all. She has been in the movies for more than two decades,she won Best Actress when Rogen was still a nobody, and she is a huge movie star. Sexism is the only explanation and it really pisses me off.

May 6, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

This movie was a perfect fit, like an cango hat on Samuel L Jackson.

July 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Coleman

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