American politics, never something considered pretty, have completely gone off the rails and crashed into the gutter. It’s a frustrating and depressing time as the preservation of norms seems to take precedent over the kind of radical systemic change that the nation requires. And yet despite a bitterly divided nation, Long Shot, the romantic comedy from director Jonathan Levine, attempts to grapple with this perilous moment in American politics while telling a funny, heartwarming story of an unlikely romance that happens within the halls of power. Long Shot may not have a cutthroat attitude towards modern politics that some might demand, but instead uses politics as a timely backdrop for its romcom story.
Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is a fiercely independent, idealistic journalist. The first time we see Fred Flarsky in action he’s deep undercover infiltrating a group of neo-Nazis, which of course goes horribly wrong for the Jewish journo. As Fred Flarsky is facing unemployment after his publication is purchased by the Murdoch-esque media mogul Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis), Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) has just been informed that President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk), a former television star, is not going to seek reelection in the hopes of becoming a movie star. With that news, Charlotte is going to go all-in on a presidential run, though her stern professionalism doesn’t poll well. A chance encounter with Fred Flarksy, whom Charlotte used to babysit in her teens, has the presidential candidate hiring the unemployed journalist to be a speechwriter. Flarsky and Field make an unusual team confronting the political establishment but along the way they bond over more than just a passion for politics in a romance on the campaign trail, but politics don’t make for unabashed love.
Long Shot bets everything on the chemistry between the unexpected pairing of Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, and it’s a bet that pays off. The two people set in their ways change one another in ways they don’t expect over the course of their working together, and the screenplay by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah avoids just making Charlotte a shrill, hardened professional woman who needs a doughy, laidback pothead to let her cut loose. It’s much more nuanced than that. Flarksy must confront his own rigid idealism, an idealism that can backfire with his crude and unwavering ways. These two people soften each other in the world of politics that demands a hardened, uncaring determination.
Flavoring the comedy of Long Shot is a strong supporting cast, including the aforementioned Bob Odenkirk and a nearly unrecognizable Andy Serkis. Fred Flarsky unwinds with his best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), whose success dwarfs Flarsky’s minor accomplishments. On the campaign trail, Charlotte is flanked by Maggie (June Diane Raphael), who loathes the new speechwriter, and Tom (Ravi Patel), two season politicos always concerned about polls and optics. Though Fred Flarsky and Charlotte Field strike up their surprising romance, she’s constantly linked in the media to the hardsome Prime Minister of Canada James Steward (Alexander Skarsgård).
Even with it political nature and romantic heart, Long Shot doesn’t dilute the raunchy aspects that people have come to expect from Seth Rogen’s films. Jonathan Levine’s film has the ability to shock you with hilarious moments of bodily humor amongst other things. One of the film’s highlights is a night on the town between speechwriter and candidate that culminates in each taking plenty of ecstasy to warp their minds for hours. However, as the drugs kick in duty calls for Charlotte. It’s in this scene that you really get a grasp of the delicate balance that Long Shot strikes, one that’s willing to be aggressively outrageous but still ground itself in a world of viscous political posturing and international diplomacy.
With all it does well, there are a few issues present in Long Shot, such as the way the film politically pulls its punches towards its conclusion. The film sacrifices its edge and viewpoint in favor of a certain kind of both-sidesism, a meaningless attempt at appeasing a crowd that will always loathe Hollywood films. The other issue with Long Shot is that it’s just a bit too long for a romantic comedy, running just a hair over two hours. However, none of these issues are enough to completely derail the film which builds considerable goodwill with the chemistry of its two leads and embrace of raunchy humor.
The Blu-ray for Long Shot has a number of featurettes about the making of the modern political romcom. While the film lacks the political punch it sometimes aims for, Long Shot is still a very enjoyable take on the romantic comedy. It’s a film with plenty of heart while traversing the heartless world of American politics, but it’s a film whose heart is entirely linked to its two mismatched stars. Politics are such an oppressively depressing part of the American id right now that it’s nice being able to take a couple hours and laugh about the masters of the universe who shape our world, even if the world outside is burning.
A romcom set in the world of presidential politics, director Jonathan Levine’s Long Shot may not have the most insightful political commentary but works because of its raunchy humor and the charms of the mismatched pair of Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen.