LONG SHOT

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Jonathan Levine

Stars: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, O’Shea Jackson, Ravi Patel, Alexander Skarsgard, Andy Serkis, Randall Park, Lisa Kudrow, Tristan D Lalla.

Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael, and Ravi Patel in Long Shot (2019)

Another variation of the formulaic opposites attract romantic comedy, Long Shot pairs the unlikely couple of Seth Rogen and Oscar winner Charlize Theron.

Theron plays Charlotte Field, the US Secretary of State and the most powerful woman in the world, and in line to become the first female President of the United States. Rogen plays Fred Flarksy, an  idealistic investigative journalist with a reputation for uncovering topical stories for his independent journal and who often finds himself in trouble. But then he resigns his job in protest when his newspaper is taken over by a media corporation run by Parker Wembley, a slimy multimillionaire media mogul (an almost unrecognisable Andy Serkis, channelling Rupert Murdoch).

When he attends a lavish DC charity raising function at the behest of his best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson, son of Ice Cube) he meets Charlotte and recognises her as his former babysitter. As a teenager she used to babysit Flarsky, a horny teenager who had a massive crush on her. On a whim, Charlotte hires Fred to be her speech writer, much to the dismay of her close advisors. He accompanies Charlotte on a globe-trotting mission, and a romance develops between the two. He includes some jokes, personal memories and environmental issues into her speeches, all of which help to soften her images and make her more popular. But this brings her into a clash of ideologies with her lightweight and buffoonish president (Bob Odenkirk, from tv series Better Call Saul, etc), a former television reality star and Wembley.  

Long Shot has been written by Dan Sterling (The Interview, which starred Rogen) and Liz Hannah (The Post, the Spielberg drama which explored the Washington Post’s ethical dilemma over whether to publish the Pentagon Papers). The script combines elements of the stoner/slacker comedy with some pungent political insights and it also offers up a critique of the current state of politics in the US today under President Trump and the nexus between politics, the media and big business.

However, unlike a lot of recent comedies which are pretty much hit and miss, Long Shot is quite funny and most of the jokes land here.

And while Rogen has not had a hand in the script, the character of Flarsky is a perfect fit for his screen persona as the genial slacker, drug taking manchild and slob, and he brings plenty of self-deprecating humour to the character. Theron doesn’t often do comedy, but she is great and brings credibility and gravitas and intelligence to her role. There is a genuine chemistry and spark between her and Rogen. Jackson is very good in his supporting role and almost steals those scenes he shares with Rogen.

June Diane Raphael is also good as Charlotte’s tightly wound personal assistant Maggie, who disapproves of Flarsky, while Alexander Skarsgard (currently on local screens  in The Aftermath and The Hummingbird Project) is wasted in a small and meaningless role as the hunky Canadian Prime Minister, a character that could have been cut without detracting from the film. And former Friends star Lisa Kudrow has a cameo as a public relations advisor brought in to try and soften Charlotte’s image and make her more electable.

Director Jonathan Levine (who directed Rogen in the cancer comedy 50/50 and The Night Before) keeps things moving along, although with a running time of 125 minutes the film is too long and there are a number of flat spots. There are also some highly improbable scenes, such as when Charlotte takes drugs at a Parisian nightclub, which don’t ring true. And the ending decides to play it safe rather than go for something a little bit edgier given the nature of some of the material. There are a couple of gross out moments that seem a bad fit with the general tone of the script.

Nonetheless, Long Shot is one of the better romantic comedies to hit our screens and worth checking out.

★★★  

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