9.5 / 10
Seth Rogen as Fred Flarsky
Charlize Theron as Charlotte Field
O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Lance
June Diane Raphael as Maggie Millikin
Ravi Patel as Tom
Andy Serkis as Parker Wembley
Alexander Skarsgård as James Stewart
Bob Odenkirk as President Chambers
Lisa Kudrow as Katherine
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Long Shot Review:
After years of delivering crowd-pleasing schlock, the romantic comedy genre is seeing something of a revival thanks to unique and fresh takes on its well-worn formula, and Long Shot might be one of the prime examples of this resurrection. It does hit on a lot of rom-com tropes and is certainly predictable to a point, but what helps this film stand out is the way the characters develop over the film, the super believable and surprising chemistry stars Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron display on screen and its easy balance of pure raunch and genuine touching emotion.
In a plot point seemingly ripped from too many headlines in the media today, the story follows political journalist Fred Flarsky (Rogen) as he quits his job due to his independent publication being bought out by Parker Wembley (Serkis) and his media conglomerate empire. As part of a plan to help cheer him back up, Fred is taken by his best friend Lance (Jackson Jr.) to a party in the richer part of New York, where he is reunited with his teenage babysitter and love interest Charlotte Field (Theron), who is now the Secretary of State. Field, who learns that the President (Bob Odenkirk) will not be running for a second term, is planning a presidential campaign in 2020 and decides to hire Fred to help punch up her speeches and boost her humor numbers in the polls. As he gets to know who she’s become and remind her of who she was, the two develop a bond that may seem natural for them, but could prove problematic for her campaign.
For those familiar with the genre, some of the plot may sound all too similar to the 1990 classic Pretty Woman, but the reality is that this film sets itself apart in all of the best ways because, unlike the Julia Roberts-starring hit, this film doesn’t try to have one character change for their betterment, but rather both. In travelling the world and experiencing the other cultures, the political power plays and even a secret from his best friend, very liberal Fred comes to understand one must always look at the other side and the bigger picture if they are to be taken seriously in life. In working with Fred and being reminded of her drive in her teenage days running for student council and facing numerous hurdles during her attempt at getting approval for an environmental treaty, Charlotte also comes to realize she shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice her morals to get further in life.
In addition to the well-developed “be yourself” theme, the love story that evolves between Fred and Charlotte proves to be a rich and compelling one to watch. Taking what is initially an oddball romance and forming into a sweet and touching reminder that no matter the cosmetic differences between two people, everyone is deserving of love. But what could be a simple romantic story is further elevated by finding a way to blend its more sentimental stuff with all of the raunchy and occasionally gross-out humor that has made Rogen a fan-favorite star. From falling face-flat down a flight of stairs to bringing drugs into the White House to an embarrassing story from his childhood, Rogen taps into the quality that has served him well over the years in hilarious fashion, but he’s also helped by a downright brilliant performance from Theron that shows wonderful comedic timing on the typically dramatic actress’ part.
In addition to Theron and Rogen, the film is carried by the key supporting performance from Jackson Jr., breakout star of the 2015 music biopic Straight Outta Compton. As his character does in every scene, Jackson Jr. explodes on camera and eats up every bit of dialogue, drawing in the audience’s attention even when the focus is supposed to be on someone else.
The film’s only real problems lie in its occasional genre tropes and its too-on-the-nose jabs at many of today’s unfortunate trending topics, including Fox News, President Donald Trump and the Time’s Up movement. Odenkirk’s President Chambers, a TV-star-turned President, is an obvious satire on the nation’s current commander-in-chief that just doesn’t take full advantage of our current situation, highlighting his lesser qualities as a man seeking stardom and money in a way that feels similar to every other spoof and satire on Trump in recent media. The constant cuts to a fake news channel featuring comedians Kurt Braunohler, Paul Scheer and Claudia O’Doherty portraying news anchors attempts to be a clever stab at the conservative news network, but aside from one key joke surrounding a few Hollywood elites known for their recent outing from filmmaking, every bit surrounding their opinions on female politicians doesn’t even feel like a joke but more like copy and pasted dialogue from transcripts of network’s series.
Overall, Long Shot will surprise modern audiences as it blends its raunchier humor, occasionally biting satire and touching love story with intimate direction from frequent Rogen collaborator Jonathan Levine, stellar chemistry between its leads and a phenomenal supporting turn from Jackson Jr, resulting in a rom-com masterpiece that should be remembered as this generation’s Pretty Woman.