Romantic comedies where the male lead is outkicking the coverage are a staple in Hollywood cinema and Seth Rogen’s latest rom-com title could be seen as a cheeky reference to that. Long Shot follows a journalist who reconnects with his former babysitter, who is now the United States Secretary of State. The film stars Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O’Shea Jackson Jr., June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, Andy Serkis, Alexander Skarsgård, and Ravi Patel. Spoilers after the trailer.
From where the film starts to where it ends is a long shot within itself. Long Shot opens up with a Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), a journalist who is infiltrating a white supremacist camp to expose them for an upcoming story. Unfortunately for Flarsky, he’s outed while getting a Swastika tattoo and the white supremacists are about to attack him, luckily he escapes by jumping out of a window. Meanwhile, the former hit-show television actor who played the president on TV turned elected official, President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk), has decided to forgo running for re-election, instead he wants to become a movie star. He even made a proclamation that only two actors, Woody Harrelson and George Clooney, have successfully made the transition from television to film. With the news that President Chambers is not running for re-election, United States Secretary of State Charlotte Fields (Charlize Theron) has the opportunity to become the first female president in the history of the United States.
The paper that Flarsky writes for has been bought out by right-wing media mogul Parker Wembley (Adam Sirkis), who I barely recognized, which causes Flarsky to quit his job because his morals would not allow him to work for someone like Wembley. An unemployed Flarsky goes to a Boys II Men performance with his best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and this is where he begins his reconnection with Charlotte Fields. In this raunchy comedy, it turns out that Charlotte was Flarsky’s babysitter and he got an erection in front of her and it was the most embarrassing moment of his life.
While gathering data for the upcoming election, public opinion polls show that the public doesn’t think Charlotte Fields has shown that she has a sense of humor, which is why she hires Flarsky as a speechwriter because his writings have personality and color to them. The film does a great job at setting up the dichotomy between the ever so serious Fields and the pessimistically comedic Flarsky. Fields’ campaign team does not want Flarsky on the team because he’s a slob and his public image will eviscerate her election chances.
The on-screen comedic chemistry between Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron is perfect. Rogen’s brand of humor is the ying to Theron’s yang. Theron’s character is someone who is committed to her job with a demanding schedule and when you add Rogen’s brash yet self-absorbed character, it allows the pair to have funny moments. Fields and Flarsky have a molly infused night out in Paris, unbeknownst to them, there is a hostage situation which requires the Press Secretary to negotiate. Fields, a first time molly user, is thrown into a highly stressful situation as she has to negotiate the life of a hostage, but the film doesn’t make it feel melodramatic and takes a humorous approach.
The main characters aren’t the only well-written characters in this film, the side characters also shine too. O’Shea Jackson Jr. is a scene stealer in this one. Sure, his character is a “black best friend” trope, but he does a terrific job with what he is given. The bits with Lance and Flarsky naturally feel like two best friends hanging out. They never come off as forced or trying to be funny for the sake of comedy. There’s a bit where Lance reveals that he’s a Christian black Republican, and Flarsky assumed that Lance only wore a cross because it was a “cultural thing.” Because of this, Lance calls out Flarsky for being racist which the liberal Flarsky condemns himself for being an accidental racist.
On the other side of things, Charlotte Fields’ campaign staff is just as amusing. Maggie Millikin (June Diane Raphael) is one of Fields’ key staffers and she has it out for Flarsky. Throughout the film, she does her best to convince Charlotte that bringing Flarsky on board was a terrible decision. Whenever Millikin and Flarsky interact, tension and animosity play up for comedic effect, but their passive-aggressive dislike is real. June Diane Raphael’s casting was perfect for this type of role as she emits a condescending vibe without it ever feeling forced.
When it comes to the romantic portion of this romantic comedy, this is where the film seems to struggle. As great as the comedic chemistry between Rogen and Theron is, their romantic chemistry leaves much to be desired. Long Shot does its best to convince us that Fields and Flarsky are in a romantic relationship, but the only time it seems like they’re in love is because the script says so. The whole cat and mouse game feels forced and a jarring contrast to their comedic pairing. As a comedy, Theron and Rogen bounce off each other effortlessly, but every time the script reminds us that this is a romance, it’s hard not to roll your eyes because it’s so absurd.
Again, the film’s setup is that Fields was Flarsky’s babysitter nearly 20 years ago, he had a crush on her and now they rekindled and fell in love. Unfortunately, throughout the whole film the romance never feels like they feel in love, instead it’s just a late 30s year-old man that has a juvenile-like crush on an early 40s year-old woman. Everything that Flarsky loves about Fields happened over two decades ago, which is what he brings up throughout the film as if Fields hasn’t changed her ideas or motives in that timeframe.
Like many of Seth Rogen’s comedic films, Long Shot is raunchy and vulgar yet funny and has charming moments. The casting helps elevate it through its, cringeworthy at times, romantic plotline. The main characters and many of the side characters have plenty of moments where they shine as actual people. There are moments that parody real life events and news networks. If you’re going to see this as a date movie there is an action scene for the fellas, so it’s not a long shot to say that this move had something for everybody. It is a shame that this film is going under the radar since it premiered a week after what may be the highest grossing film of all-time, but charge it to the game.
[All Mames Wey]
Long Shot was released in theaters May 3, 2019.