Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen make a relatable pair in this heartfelt and hilarious political rom-com.
May 02, 2019
Kick arse in huge action franchises. Steal scenes in beloved sitcoms. Find dark humour in different stages of womanhood. Is there anything that Charlize Theron can't do? A decade and a half ago, she rightfully won an Oscar for transforming into a serial killer in Monster, but the biggest coup of her career just might be her ability to keep evolving on-screen. After a five-year stretch that's included Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde and Tully, Long Shot is the latest example of Theron's chameleonic talents — a political rom-com that's as irreverent (and often inappropriate) as you'd expect of a flick that also stars Seth Rogen, and genuinely heartfelt and hilarious as well. Charlize Theron, romantic-comedy standout? You'd better believe it.
With an accessible air of elegance and a can-do attitude but zero sharp edges, Theron plays US Secretary of State Charlotte Field, the youngest person to ever hold that position. When the current TV star-turned-"dumb-fuck president" (Bob Odenkirk) — the film's exact words — decides not to seek re-election because he'd rather move into movies, Charlotte secures his endorsement to run for the top job. But first, she has to win over the public. Her strategists warn that her wave is a problem, that she might want to cosy up to the attractive Canadian Prime Minister (Alexander Skarsgard), and that she should spearhead a new "bees, trees and seas" environmental initiative around the globe. Also, she needs to be funnier. Thanks to a chance reunion with Fred Flarsky (Rogen), a recently unemployed investigative journalist who she used to babysit when they were kids, she soon has a new speechwriter. He makes her laugh and this is a rom-com, so it's not long until more than jokes start flying, obviously.
As well as referencing one of the film's climactic gags, Long Shot's title calls out both a cliche and a fantasy, as does its casting. Based on aesthetics alone, society has primed audiences to believe that this chalk-and-cheese pairing shouldn't work — although decades of movies have made the opposite case. As directed by Jonathan Levine (The Night Before) and written by Dan Sterling (The Interview) and Liz Hannah (The Post), Long Shot knows the status quo, but finds middle ground on a character level. There's plenty about the film's plot that's exaggerated for the sake of comedy, to make amusingly astute political parallels and even to bask in an idealised rom-com glow. However the importance of simply carving out engaging, multifaceted characters who complement each other in a messy and realistic way can't be underestimated.
There's something else that can't be overlooked, and it's a pivotal factor in making Long Shot's protagonists work so well: chemistry. Forget all of the awkwardness that blights badly cast love stories, in which romantic leads gel about as well as the real-life US president and the truth — that's never the case here. The rapport between Theron and Rogen is loose and easy, and both the film and its characters are all the better for it. Theron brings depth (and grace, vulnerability, determination and humour) to her role, Rogen ensures that his part is never just a schlubby stoner stereotype, and they bounce off of each other from start to finish. They're surrounded by stellar comic talent, too, from obvious candidates such as Odenkirk, Andy Serkis (as a slimy Murdoch-like media mogul) and June Diane Raphael (as Charlotte's chief advisor), to Skarsgard's amusing turn (as a Trudeau-like figure) and an excellent O'Shea Jackson Jr (as Fred's best pal).
Levine, who also worked with Rogen on poignant cancer comedy 50/50, deserves his own dose of credit — specifically for the snappy, outrageously funny film's pace and tone. While a two-hour rom-com might seem like a stretch, Long Shot never lags. And even with a Boyz II Men live performance, a drug-addled hostage negotiation in the situation room, a female-empowerment vibe, topical jokes and a Roxette-scored dance scene to fit in, the movie has room to breathe as well. With the latter sequence, the film gives an overt nod to the song's first big-screen appearance in 90s romance Pretty Woman. The Julia Roberts and Richard Gere vehicle mightn't be the best role model, but Long Shot gestures in its direction with more than nostalgia in mind. All rom-coms come with a dash of fairytale, however this refreshing flick saves its daydreams for making over (and making fun of) parts of the political sphere, while serving up its opposites-attract central pairing with relatable chaos and charm.
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