So you’re telling me there’s a chance? A successful presidential term is only as successful as the people of who the man in charge surrounds himself with. For bumbling President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk), one of those people is Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), a woman of immense poise, intellect, and beauty. Wanting to pursue other endeavors midway through his term, Chambers makes the decision to not run again and endorse Field—who’s always harbored dreams of being the Commander-in-Chief—for her own presidential campaign.
Field isn’t a Long Shot contender; rather, she’s a strong contender who people like. Yet, she’s missing that certain je ne sais quoi in her persona and speeches that makes her personable. Needing a tweak, she and her campaign decide to bring on the newly unemployed journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) after a choice encounter to write speeches. Fred’s a man from her teenage past who’s equally talented in his own career expertise if a wee bit unorthodox. As the two truly get to know each other, the sparks become undeniable, even if it doesn’t make sense visually.
In Long Shot, there are certainly pieces of gender roles, political satire, and alluded-to questions raised about the state of America’s two-party system. However, it is telling that the party Charlotte represents is never addressed, and the words “Republican” and “Democrat” are only brought up sparingly and somewhat mockingly during a scene with 20 or so minutes to go. On a macro level, Long Shot ultimately ends up expressing the idea that parties don’t matter, and what does matter is the person’s message and adherence to their convictions. On a micro level, Long Shot is simply a romantic comedy wrapped into a political setting. An extremely rollicking romantic comedy.
Busts happen to everyone in every profession, and it happened to director Jonathan Levine with his last film in Snatched. Before that, from The Wackness to The Night Before, one could even make the case he was underrated, a model of filmmaking consistency. Long Shot might be his best feature just under 50/50. Perhaps his best directorial decision here—made with co-writers Liz Hannah (The Post) and Dan Sterling (The Interview, producer of Girls) is a refusal to be lazy with the R rating.
It’s a crutch many R-rated comedies succumb to, the idea that more bad words and ridiculous, gross-out raunchiness would easily translate to massive belly laughs. While still firmly adult, the trio behind Long Shot mix in subtle jabs at today’s state of affairs, visual sight gags, mild slapstick, and just fresh, snappy dialogue zingers. A smart comedy may be too high of praise, but any rate, the effort is evident. Sure, 10-12 minutes could be removed along with a reworked opening (save for an obtained tattoo only referenced twice, it just feels…weird when compared to the rest of the flick), and an ending that—no spoilers—kind of shapes itself around the privileged. Overall, massive kudos are earned, and the drag is minimal.
As one could surmise, part of the hilarity of this movie is the obvious juxtaposition of Theron’s one-in-a-million aesthetic beauty being paired with Rogen’s everyday charismatic average-ness. Levine and co. definitely play up this aspect, while also making it believable enough that this improbable pairing could work by highlighting similar personality aspects in both (a common one shared is passion—both believe in what they do but either struggle with being too elitist and judgmental, or unsure about digging their heels in on what they believe to be right). Adept writing is only part of it for a rom-com, and thankfully, the other part is accomplished, that being the energetic chemistry “Therogen” possess.
Long Shot would be very adequate with only its leads doing great work. Long Shot is high quality, though, because the supporting cast is electric. Odenkirk is a funny mix of past commander-in-chiefs, Andy Serkis (unrecognizable!) takes inspiration from one of the world’s richest individuals, June Diane Raphael excels in playing the person who feels they know what’s best for everyone, and Alexander Skarsgård seems to be channeling Justin Trudeau. With all that said, the scene-stealer is none other than O’Shea Jackson Jr., keeping up with and arguably exceeding Rogen in the scenes they share as the über-supportive, jovially optimistic best friend. There’s a ready-made, summer buddy cop-esque comedy with the two should a reunion be in future cards.
Oh boy! Long Shot stakes an early campaign for best studio comedy of the year. It’s a long race with hidden candidates sure to emerge, but the smart money is on this one lasting around as an option for a while.
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