Seth Rogen’s boisterous brand of self-deprecation tends to dictate the tone of the many raunchy studio comedies he’s appeared in over the last decade, but Long Shot finally provides a co-star who can match that dopey charm. In director Jonathan Levine’s frisky romantic comedy, Charlize Theron’s workaholic Secretary of State emanates power and intimidation with her every move, putting Rogen’s overbearing journalist-turned-speechwriter in his place even as they fall in love; through the process, she injects this formulaic movie with a fresh bite.
Fred Flarsky (Rogen) is an acclaimed journalist who has just quit his job after the publication he worked for is purchased by a detestable mogul named Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis). Charlotte Field (Theron) is the Secretary of State who is angling to run for President after the current President (Bob Odenkirk), an actor who played the President on TV and managed to get elected for the real job, decides he doesn’t want to run for a second term. Charlotte babysat for Fred when they were kids, and they run into each other again at a Boyz II Men performance. Charlotte needs a speechwriter who can make her sound funnier, and Fred needs a job. As the two work together, a chemistry builds and sparks begin to fly. But they’re then forced to confront their own baggage as they become romantically intertwined.
Seth Rogen & Charlize Theron in Long Shot
The romantic comedy is an inherently fantastical genre, complete with timed meet-cutes, witty banner, clear obstacles and happy endings. As many might know, real relationships are far more tumultuous and complex, but we like watching them distilled on screen so we can get to the good parts and disregard the messy realities. In that way, Jonathan Levine’s movie is a pitch perfect rom-com in the mold of the classics like Pretty Woman and The American President but with that added element of raunchiness and distain you’d find in a typical Seth Rogen vehicle. The film is sweet and funny, and while the premise itself might strain to gullibility, it’s easy to look over when the movie is so delightful.
The true symbiotic relationship of Long Shot involves with its screenplay, which stems from an original story by The Interview writer Dan Sterling and has been punched up by co-writer Liz Hannah, a veteran in writing political intrigue with The Post. They both balance the political satire and romantic comedy elements of Long Shot very well. But’s it when the movie itself begins to make that transition of the two genres where the sprawling plot struggles to reconcile its disparate tones. But Rogen and Theron work overtime to make for a convincing odd couple, displaying their fantastic chemistry with one another. There’s no doubting that the genuine bond between these characters transcends the expectations thrust on top of them.
Long Shot owes a lot to Rogen and Theron, but especially Theron who continues to have the kind of rare screen presence, that’s at once intimate and superhuman, that can bend even the most rigid-seeming genre to its will. Only those who once doubted her abilities as a serious dramatic performer or an action star (or both, in the case of Mad Max: Fury Road) will be surprised by the adeptness of her physical comedy or liveliness that’s carried in her line readings. Rogen may tumble down a staircase beautifully, but his co-star has the tougher task of steering Charlotte through an international hostage crisis while she’s high out of her mind. Theron never oversells the routine; she hits just the right notes of the loopy whispers and lets the confetti in her hair do the rest.
Long Shot has decent ideas about the absurd optics involved in fostering a convincing political image, but even the more inspired moments of the movie carry the burden of material that has been done in a sharper manner before. While Long Shot isn’t going to change the rom-com genre, it still takes its delightful couple and turns them into a sharp vessel for exploring America’s current fractured times. Long Shot may be overlong and a little rough around the edges, but its imperfections speak to an endearing knack for the messiness of the current day.