Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen Navigate Romance and Politics in Smart Comedy ‘Long Shot’
The pairing of Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron for a romantic comedy is one that is bound to roll a few eyes. However, “Long Shot,” which follows a female presidential candidate, Charlotte Field (Theron), who falls for a nonconformist journalist, Fred Flarsky (Rogen), is surprisingly fresh and relevant.
The role of Charlotte seems tailored-made for Theron. Despite having earned her Oscars for “Monster” and “North Country,” two films that are uber dramatic even by Academy standards, the South African actress also has a knack for comedy. She holds her own not only against Rogen, but also against Bob Odenkirk, who plays the self-absorbed former television actor-turned-president whom Charlotte works under as Secretary of State. After the POTUS informs her of his intention to leave the presidency to make it in films, she boldly puts her hat in the ring for the vacant position. However, her being a woman, and a single woman at that, she faces a unique set of challenges, and screenwriters Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah, as well as director Jonathan Levine, do a superb job of exploring the gendered scrutiny that qualified women face in their quests for public office. Having to make compromises when it comes to her policies is something all politicians face, but the choices she must make in her personal life, we discover, are grossly unfair.
Which brings us to Fred, Charlotte’s former nextdoor neighbor whom she once baby-sat (he’s three years younger). Fred is first seen narrowly escaping getting a swastika tattoo after infiltrating a group of neo-Nazis, one of the many dangerous assignments he takes on as an investigative journalist. After his publication is bought out by a conservative Rupert Murdoch-like figure, Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis), he quits on principle. That evening, he runs into Charlotte at a swanky charity event that’s he’s dragged to by his best friend, Lance (a hilarious O’Shea Jackson Jr. dropping some truth bombs), and one thing leads to another and he’s hired as her new speech writer, despite some misgivings from her driven staffer Maggie (June Diane Raphael).
The magic of “Long Shot” comes from the fact that it mostly stays away from the kind of clichés one usually sees in rom-coms where men chase after women “out of their league.” No hokey grand romantic gestures or begging. Charlotte and Fred are thrown together as they travel the world, and we see here how working together in such close quarters at all hours isn’t that unlike being in a romantic relationship. As they get to know each other, an intimacy develops, so by the time they do hookup, we’re fully invested in the pair and it feels natural.
If “Long Shot” was released just five years ago, that last third of it would be called outlandish because of the difficult predicament in which Charlotte and Fred find themselves. However, in this world new world social media puts high-profile figures under a microscope and politicians don’t think twice about publically throwing shade at each other, certain plot elements don’t seem so far-fetched. However, this film is by no means cynical, but rather the hopeful story that is much needed in today’s world.
“Long Shot” opens May 3 nationwide.