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Film Review – Long Shot (2019)

Though you might not think it at first, Seth Rogen is one of the more dependable stars that we have in Hollywood. You have a sense of what you’re going to get in each of his films — a lot of improv, boundary-pushing humor, playful obnoxiousness, and a few extended stoner sequences thrown in just for the hell of it, and a surprising amount of thought and intelligence. Now that he’s well-established as both an in front of and behind the camera creative force, this is essentially what we’ll see from him for the foreseeable future. Long Shot sees him returning to that well once more, but this time, he has the help of the flawless Charlize Theron.

The following review will be spoiler free.

Synopsis

Directed By: Jonathan Levine

Written By: Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah

Starring: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, Ravi Patel, Bob Odenkirk, and Alexander Skarsgård

Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Theron) is the ideal politician, which is why President Chambers (Odenkirk) has endorsed her for the 2020 presidential run. The people of the United States seem to agree, as a recent poll of constituents revealed that Charlotte is perceived favorably in important traits such as integrity, compassion, etc. But there’s one trait that Charlotte could improve: humor.

So when Charlotte runs into Fred Flarsky (Rogen), a journalist that recently quit his job after media mogul and Rupert Murdoch surrogate Parker Wembley (Serkis) purchased the outlet for which he wrote, she hires him to punch up her speeches. Charlotte was Fred’s babysitter back when they were kids, so Charlotte assumes that Fred can pull from personal experience when writing for her.

And as they continue to work together, an unlikely bond forms between them, eventually turning into a romance.

A (Very) Brief History of the Schlub Getting the Insanely Attractive Woman in Film

It was Woody Allen who popularized the idea of the nebbish, outwardly disappointing male character winning the heart of a stunning woman in film with many of his works…which may or may not take on a new meaning depending on your opinion of the director today. Nevertheless, we have had a long history of schlubby men getting the woman who many would categorize as a 10/10.

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Rogen and others have somewhat made their fame in the wake of the Apatow comedy run in the 2000s that used this idea in their central premises. There’s a large group of people that grew up on and adore movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, making a movie like Long Shot par for the course.

There have been some truly terrible examples of this kind of movie in the past, but Long Shot manages to make this formula work as it plays as a direct commentary in the movie itself.

image via Slate

We Don’t Deserve the Elegance that is Charlize Theron

I can’t keep it inside for any longer: I have a massive crush on Charlize Theron. Amy Adams and she consistently battle for the championship belt of my affection, but I think Long Shot is the near fatal blow that’ll make Theron the champ for some time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Theron look more stunning and gorgeous in a role. She’s an idealized version of a powerful woman — or just a human — in 2019 — smart yet elegant, strong-willed yet approachable, thoughtful yet opinionated. It’s a great movie star role, one that shows how great of a performer Theron is while always putting her in a good light.

The predominant feeling that many will have coming out of Long Shot is one of the following:

  1. I think Charlize Theron is the most attractive woman alive
  2. Charlize 2020, anyone?
  3. Hey, Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron are a great pair!
  4. Some combination of 1-3

The notion that Theron factors into all of these outcomes is no accident. Her public persona of being an accomplished, dignified, and intense star is all over the character of Charlotte Field, which makes it even better when she does the comedy even better than Rogen for certain stretches. One scene involving a negotiation will have you in stitches.

image via The Movie My Life

A Palpable and Breathtaking Romance

But as with any romantic comedy, it always comes down to the romance, which in the case of Long Shot, is truly great. Even mesmerizing!

You can essentially boil Long Shot down to a commentary on being a professional, public woman in 2019. Appear too funny and you won’t be taken seriously; be too serious and be viewed as a total ice queen. And with that comes a relationship that isn’t ideal in the classical sense of the word, which might further demean the woman in the public eye. It’s a rock-solid foundation for a political comedy, and Rogen and Theron benefit greatly from it.

I’ve always imagined that it’s easy to have onscreen chemistry with Seth Rogen. He seems like an unintimidating guy who can easily workshop a scene in the moment when it’s not going well. Theron and his chemistry is exceptional; they sculpt an entirely believable romance out of what the marketing for Long Shot not-so-cleverly notes is “unlikely but not impossible.” They have a surprising amount of tenderness between them; there’s more to each glance than the casual, longing stare that most actors in a purely professional relationship can give each other. Honestly, it’s fairly magical at times.

The dynamics of a relationship involving a presidential hopeful and a frumpy journalist with far too many windbreakers are entirely respectable. Theron’s Charlotte has total agency over her love life whereas Rogen’s Fred is happy to get anything at all. Other characters certainly have their doubts about their relationship, but Long Shot is never bogged down in the typical contrived conflicts that come with the genre.

image via People

Long Shot is a Little Long in the Tooth

Though I think that Rogen and his collaborators took one too many pages from Judd Apatow’s textbook, which is aptly titled How To Make a Great, Raunchy Rom-Com That’s Also 20 Minutes Too Long. (Or at least that would be my title for such a text if it existed.)

Every Rogen comedy plays fast and loose with its material, sometimes to its detriment as it’s more difficult to make edits and produce a tight story. Long Shot never needed to be over two hours long. A predominant portion of this movie is Theron and Rogen hanging out in exotic locations as Theron’s character speaks on global political issues, which is great…until it isn’t.

It’s hard to pin down exactly where Long Shot could have used some trimming, but it’s all too obvious that something needed to get cut as the film never has the narrative urgency that one would hope for. It merely meanders from point to point, putting all the onus on its likable cast — which is admittedly up to the challenge more often than not.

image via Bustle

Final Thoughts

Loose and playful to a fault, Long Shot coasts off of the charm of its unlikely pair, delivering a cozy, surprisingly thoughtful two-hour ride where characters get to endlessly dunk on each other in hilarious fashion.

The most obvious piece of any rom-com is that the romance must work, and Theron and Rogen have wonderful chemistry that is always endearing and honest. A lot of it comes from Theron, who is truly a goddess among mere mortals.

Forget The Rock 2020, can we make Theron 2020 a thing??? C’mon Twitter, do some good for a change!

Grade: B+

image via Roger Ebert


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Nick Kush

A current young professional in the greater D.C. area, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 and hasn't look back since! Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society and the Washington DC Film Critics Association. You can follow Nick on Twitter @nkush42

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