Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Premise: A coarse but well-meaning independent journalist (Seth Rogan) is hired as a speech writer for the Secretary of State (Charlize Theron). As she prepares for a run for the Presidency, the two of them fall in love.
What Works: Long Shot is a contemporary gender flipped version of movies like Pretty Woman and The American President in which romance blooms between a powerful and connected person and a love interest who is not. This is a romantic comedy; the filmmakers are clearly aware of the kind of movie that they’ve made and they do it well. A story like this hinges upon the romance and whether or not the audience will believe in it and want to see the two leads get together. Long Shot reiterates the scenario of a schlubby male, played by Seth Rogan, getting with a much more attractive woman, played in this instance by Charlize Theron. It’s a formula that’s been rightly criticized in the past but it works in Long Shot better than in other films and even better than in other Seth Rogan comedies. That’s partly due to the match between Rogan and Theron; they both have terrific charisma and comic timing. They also play it just right with an awareness of the imbalances between them. Rogan knows who he is and how he looks next to Theron but their characters fall in love for the right reasons. These people like and respect each other and they are linked by a shared set of values that transcend their social status. The combination of charisma and matchmaking allows the romance to work. Long Shot is also very smart and very funny. It takes place in the political world and it has some ideas about gender and power and media but also about the conflict between idealism and compromise and how the perfect can become the enemy of the good. Rogan’s journalist is an angry idealist while Theron’s Secretary of State is the pragmatist trying to get things done however she can. That conflict deepens the material and Long Shot presents its political points without obnoxiously beating us over the head with them.
What Doesn’t: Like a lot of the movies from Judd Apatow’s protégés, Long Shot runs a little too long. To its credit, Long Shot is more consistent than a lot of movies in the Apatow subgenre. Virtually every scene has a laugh and the story is mostly focused; there is little extraneous material. However, some of the characteristic Seth Rogan pratfalls do feel a bit forced, primarily the drug humor and especially a sequence in which Rogan and Theron’s characters go out for a night of wild partying. It’s also a predictable story. Long Shot adheres to the romantic comedy template and there aren’t many surprises or risks. The tropes are excusable because the filmmakers do them so well and they give the romantic comedy audience what they are looking for but we’ve seen a lot of this before. It is also worth mentioning Long Shot’s disconnect from reality; as depicted in this film, the Secretary of State’s entire entourage is about three people and a couple of security guards and her speechwriter is invited to a lot of high level events. This is just as unlikely as the romance—perhaps even more so—but the title of the movie is Long Shot and incredulity is inherent to its premise.
Bottom Line: Long Shot is an enjoyable romantic comedy and it offers its audience a prime example of that genre even if it is predictable. But Long Shot is also a smart political picture in a way that is engaging instead of exhausting.
Episode: #749 (May 12, 2019)