Director: Jonathan Levine
Writers: Dan Sterling, Liz Hannah
Stars: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael
Synopsis: When Fred Flarsky reunites with his first crush, one of the most influential women in the world, Charlotte Field, he charms her. As she prepares to make a run for the Presidency, Charlotte hires Fred as her speechwriter and sparks fly.
Jonathan Levine’s newest comedy, Long Shot, is a sharp-witted, intelligent, and lively experience hidden within a Trojan horse disguised as standard romantic comedy fare. Writers Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling work around expectations by manipulating the genre in a way that feels comfortable yet excitingly new. Starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, Long Shot utilizes our familiarity with gender roles in a heterosexual romantic comedy and subverts assumptions to deliver a wholly different romantic comedy.
Fred Flarsky (Rogen) is an in-your-face, successful and recently unemployed reporter whose quick wit with a pen has placed him in dangerous situations. In his work, he has tackled white supremacists and evil corporations, the latter of which is what leads to the abdication of his job. The exceedingly talented Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Theron), was once a babysitter for Flarsky during her high school years. Once they meet again, there is definite chemistry alight between the two protagonists, a chemistry that is expanded upon when Field hires Flarsky as a scriptwriter on her upcoming world tour to promote her green initiative. The tour is extremely important to Field, as she sees it as her opportunity to springboard into the White House. However, success is determinate on the current president (Bob Odenkirk) endorsing her before he leaves office. As the tour progresses, Field and Flarsky spend more and more time together, eventually realizing the feelings they have for each other.
The plot of Long Shot is no different from that of other romantic comedies. They meet, fall in love, fall apart, reunite, live happily ever after. Sorry for the spoilers, but that is basically the plot to every rom-com imaginable. Alternatively, it’s what the filmmakers achieve between those beats that continue to surprise. First, the roles of Field and Flarsky. In usual romantic comedy films, the man holds a position of power or authority, but in Long Shot, Field is clearly the authority in every scene. In both Field’s job and Theron’s command of the screen, there is no question about whose story is being told. She is determined to become president but more than that, she is determined to use her power to help others. Unfortunately, a life in politics and the patriarchy have dictated how she eats, walks, and with whom she is seen. The social rules of the world push on all sides. Once Flarsky enters they are immediately attracted to each other’s intelligence and sense of humor. However, the perceived rules threaten to push them apart, as they struggle to find moments to be with each other.
Field is keenly aware of the optics of everything she does or says. Her ability to succeed is being constantly defined by men: the president that holds her candidacy in his hand, a soulless media mogul (played by an almost unrecognizable Andy Serkis), and a Canadian head of state that wishes to use her for his own optics. Field realizes the rules of the game dictate her life and her happiness. In order to attain what she wants, she must push back against the people who wish to tear her down.
Throughout the film, jokes fly quickly and effortlessly. Theron’s comedic timing is sheer brilliance and fits very well with Rogen’s style of bro-humor. The ease with which the two characters fit together is partly why this film works. Never for a minute does the audience believe their feelings for each other aren’t genuine. It feels raw and organic. Within their interactions, there is no hidden agenda. Flarsky is not using Field to get ahead and Field is not exploiting Flarsky in any other way than his job as a speechwriter. Far too often in films, audiences hold their breath and waits for the shoe to drop. In Long Shot the shoe is dropped from outside forces and not from within their relationship, which is a welcomed twist. However, often a voice advocating for a balance in politics (possibly from the studio) is shoehorned in, which makes some scenes drag. Overall, the comedic aspect of Long Shot is wholly entertaining and leaves the audience wanting more.
Long Shot is a fun and exciting look at what romantic comedies could become, two people loving each other’s company based on who they are on the inside and not being defined by what’s on the outside. In Long Shot, brains, ambition, love, and morals combat the stereotypes of standards of beauty. The characters of Long Shot fly in the face of convention and deliver a breath of fresh air into a genre that has been stagnant for far too long.
Overall Grade: B+
Listen to our podcast review on Episode 324: