Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron are great together in Long Shot.
This is a spoiler-free advanced review of Long Shot from its premiere at SXSW. Long Shot will be in theaters on Friday, May 3, 2019.
Romantic comedies are a fundamental cog in Hollywood’s multi-billion dollar entertainment wheel, with a formula that’s easily recognizable, and often, predictable: two people meet each other, they fall in love, there’s an obstacle to overcome, and then they – usually – live happily ever after. Long Shot, written and directed by Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies), doesn’t stray too far from the norm, but still elevates the rom-com genre with a politically-themed, whimsical script and impeccable casting— specifically, Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, whose on-screen chemistry is instantly captivating and really, really funny.
Theron plays Charlotte Field, the current Secretary of State who is aspiring to become the first female President of the United States. Rogen’s character, Fred Flarsky, is an outspoken journalist with a talent for saying the most inappropriate things at the worst possible moments. When Charlotte finds herself in need of a new speechwriter, Fred – she used to babysit him when they were kids – seems like just the right kind of crazy to help her achieve her political goals. Long Shot isn’t breaking any new narrative ground here, with a plot reminiscent of 2005’s Hitch where an average Joe falls in love with one of the most powerful women in the world. Like Kevin James’ Albert in Hitch, Fred is a fish out of water in Charlotte’s glamorous life. But that’s what makes their love affair so charming.
Fred’s frequent trips with Charlotte as she interacts with diplomats from all over the world offers some witty moments and even some unexpected action sequences. Fred is in no danger of winning GQ’s best-dressed man of the year, and it’s amusing to watch him struggle to fit in with the rich and famous. Rogen really knows how to play the insecure oaf, and even though we’ve seen him do it several times now, it’s as charming as ever in Long Shot, especially when pitted against Theron’s regal presence. Every time Charlotte talks to another handsome male acquaintance, Fred uses that sad puppy dog expression of his that’s difficult to resist. That doesn’t mean Fred is a pushover. On the contrary, some of the best scenes in the film are when he pushes back against Charlotte’s policy changes. If Fred feels passionate about a certain political issue – protecting the environment in this case – he lets her know, which adds tension to the mostly light-hearted script.
Writer-director Jonathan Levine should be applauded for his work behind the camera and for his screenplay. Instead of starting with the ideal first meeting/date between Charlotte and Fred that instantly sparks their romantic flame, Levine puts the two at odds from the very beginning in terms of their political views. Their relationship feels more authentic because it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Levine’s script keeps the comedy coming at a fast pace, which might make you miss the next joke since you’ll still be laughing at the one that landed 30-seconds before.
Rogen may not be the most versatile actor, but Levine — who previously directed Rogen in 50/50 —knows his strengths and how to use them adequately. Theron, meanwhile, is sensational. Long Shot probably won’t earn her another Oscar, but who cares? You can tell she’s having a lot of fun here. And Levine’s sharp script allows Theron to use her myriad of skills. As Charlotte, Theron easily embodies the fierce political figure you would expect her to be, but she can also let loose with Fred, like accompanying him on wild and hilarious drug-fueled benders. Long Shot is just another example of how Theron can do any genre.
While Rogen and Theron are excellent, Long Shot also features an equally impressive roster of supporting actors that add even more comedy and charm. Chief among them is Bob Odenkirk’s portrayal of the acting U.S. President, Charlotte’s boss. He’s a former TV actor turned politician who’s so self-centered that he watches clips of his old shows while he’s in the oval office. Odenkirk is perfect for the part, using some of his Better Call Saul smarm to great effect. O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) is another standout here. Jackson plays Fred’s best friend, who is far more successful and confident in himself than Fred. Their discourse is enjoyable and even though the movie is not primarily about their friendship, Levine devotes enough time in his script for you to develop an affection for them. There are other cameos throughout the film that we won’t spoil here, but rest assured, Long Shot has a few surprises sprinkled throughout.;