4 out of 5 stars.
At first glance, Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen seem to be an unusual pairing. Their unexpected chemistry plays a large part in “Long Shot,” a romantic comedy in which Theron plays powerful and elegant Secretary of State Charlotte Field and Rogen plays awkward and funny journalist Fred Flarsky. They unexpectedly reconnect decades after Charlotte used to babysit Fred when they were teenagers. Charlotte is trying to win the current President’s endorsement for her own presidential campaign, and hires Fred to make her speeches more funny and relatable. Fred, who has had a crush on Charlotte since he was twelve, ends up charming her, but the fact that he may not be the right person for her to be seen with on the campaign trail threatens their relationship.
“Long Shot,” which is directed by Jonathan Levine, features classic romantic comedy elements with a bit of a twist. The ugly duckling underdog character that is normally played by a woman is embodied by the male lead, while the woman is the one with all the power and influence. It’s Fred who gets the makeover, Fred who is whisked off to all these exotic locales and fancy dinner parties where he’s rather out of his element. The resulting story is not only sweet and funny but also feels fresh despite a narrative arc that is overall predictable. There is also a fair of timely jokes that ease the film into some moments of satire regarding current politics and the general attitude toward women in power. We see a sitting President who maybe isn’t entirely fit for the job (played by Bob Odenkirk in a small but hilarious role), as well as the attitude that no one actually cares about policies and getting things done, only about appearances. While over the course of their time together Fred learns not to be so immediately judgmental about others, he also helps Charlotte—currently bogged down by the rigors of her job—to remember the idealistic girl she was, and reminds her of the importance of standing by what she believes in.
Rogen brings his usual blend of raunchy stoner comedy that we’ve seen before to his role but also turns in a genuinely tender performance, while Theron gets the opportunity to remind us how funny she is. The result is that they play off of each other very nicely, and make the audience believe in their relationship. The supporting cast also includes the very dryly hilarious June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel as Charlotte’s advisors Maggie and Tom, O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Fred’s best friend Lance, and Alexander Skarsgard as the Prime Minister of Canada, who has his sights set on Charlotte. Some of the jokes land, some don’t, but overall the script includes enough fun gags and amusing banter buoyed by good performances to make the movie work. And there are some beautifully composed shots that really elevate the material; in one scene, for instance, Charlotte and Fred leave a party to dance alone in another room, and the camera slowly zooms out from a window looking in on them to encompass the entire crowded dance floor of the party.
“Long Shot” is the kind of rom-com that is the perfect blend of humor and heart, that is both classic and timely, and has the additional message of staying true to your beliefs thrown in the mix. If there is any big flaw, it’s that too much of the story relies on the unexpectedness of Charlotte and Fred’s relationship, because all things considered, they’re pretty perfect together.
Runtime: 125 minutes. Rated R.