Long Shot (2019)

“There’s no way the two of you work.”

Long Shot is a decent romantic comedy with a likable identity when it decides to dig in and get a little dirty, ditching polite pleasantries for abrasive handshakes, disparaging comments, and aggressively combative banter. This mostly applies here when the film conforms to the uncompromising and on brand content curated by the movie’s leading man/producer Seth Rogen, taking his stoner shtick all the way to the White House. However, what’s most disappointing about Long Shot is that it has such a massive, easy and stationary swath of a target to swing at and yet it tends to miss small because it prefers to aim too small. More detail might have helped steer this one in the right direction.

Dressed in a colorful windbreaker and loose Chinos, Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) doesn’t look like the kind of guy you take seriously. He’s a journalist fresh off an assignment covering Neo-Nazis, abruptly told that the paper he works for has been bought by the monopolistic and right-wing propagandist Parker Wembley (And Serkis). Fred refuses to compromise at all costs, stubbornly quitting before he can be fired with a severance package, and he mourns unemployment by spending a night out on the town with his successful best fried Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) to mend his broken heart. This is when he sees Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), the current Secretary of State seeking a 2020 Presidential bid who just so happens to be Fred’s old grade school crush/babysitter. He’s an unfiltered writer, she needs to improve her image in the polls, they know each other. Sparks reluctantly fly.

As Charlotte kowtows to the current President (Bob Odenkirk, a previous TV actor passing up reelection in hopes of finding fame in film) in order to gain his endorsement, Fred tags along on cross-continental travels, asking personal questions and peeling back a few of her layers in order to add some humanity to her speeches. They occasionally lock eyes, share harrowing moments, start to flirt and long to kiss. These are the scenes where Long Shot works rather well as your standard sex in the workplace romantic comedy aspiring for the Oval Office, especially because Rogen and Theron (who’s brilliant here in a welcome change of pace for her…she’s naturally funny) share such great chemistry. And yet I never really bought this R-rated, gender-swapped rendition of The American President, mostly because I couldn’t pin down what in the hell it was even selling.

Long Shot has good punchlines, solid setups, a handful of scenes that elicit true belly laughs and a truly great Springsteen music cue. The structure of the film itself is sound and makes sense; it also makes me wish Rogen would evolve out of the stoner/schlump stuck in High School schtick. The picture’s also overlong, even boring in the first hour, only gathering strength and getting better as the characters allow themselves to become more vulnerable. However, what I don’t understand is why the film chose to tell a story about the political realm without giving Charlotte one party to affiliate with. Is she a Democrat or a Republican? Is she bipartisan or does she prefer to pander for votes? I say that because the script leans so far left (it parodies Fox News, our own TV personality President, and it rightfully villainizes the likes of Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch and Steve Bannon all lumped together into an over the top caricature). Long Shot tells a valuable story about journalistic integrity and uncompromising political policy, yet it doesn’t have the courage to take a side, making this one worth recommending even though I doubt that I’ll have feel the urge to watch it again.

“Sometimes you’re a little too much.”

Rating: 3 out of 5

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