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Long Shot
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Bedfellows Make Strange Politics"
4 stars

Whether you like “Long Shot” or not will depend to a large degree on exactly how much thought you are planning to give it, either while watching it or afterwards. On the one hand, it is a breezy and brash romantic comedy and look at it simply on that level, it does work thanks to a number of very funny scenes and the offbeat chemistry generated by its two leads. On the other hand, if one sits down and analyzes the politics driving the narrative—sexual and otherwise—to any degree, large parts of it begin to come across as either willfully inane or borderline creepy. The end result is a work that contains enough charm and wit to sort of warrant a recommendation but only with the caveat that some of the elements on display are really not going to play well with some audience members.

Seth Rogen stars as Fred Flarksy, a crusading investigative journalist who returns to his newspaper office following an undercover assignment to infiltrate a neo-Nazi group (it all ends badly but wackily), only to quit when he learns that the paper is being bought up by a sleazy conservative media mogul (Andy Serkis under tons of makeup designed to make viewers wonder who is buried under all the latex and whatnot). To break Fred out of his funk, his best friend (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) takes him to a swanky fundraising event and before long, security guards arrive to take Fred aside to meet with someone. This someone turns out to be none other than Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), the brilliant and impossibly glamorous Secretary of State. More significantly, she was also Fred’s baby-sitter when he was 13 and she was in high school and his secret crush object—well, not so secret following one embarrassing evening.

What no one else in that room knows at that point is that the doofus former TV star who is now currently serving as President (Bob Odenkirk) has decided not to run for a second term—he has elected to leave politics and go back to television—and has offered to give Charlotte his endorsement if she chooses to run. Charlotte accepts but her potential candidacy hits an early roadblock when the results of focus groups suggest that voters feel that she is too much of a brainiac and lacks the kind of sense of humor that would make her seem more likable. Her campaign advisors (June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel) insist that she hire a speechwriter who can make her seem more humorous and relatable and, much to their horror, she decides to hire Fred for the job. Before long, the long-deferred sexual tension between him and Charlotte finally reaches a social acceptable boil, even though her aides do everything that they can to undermine him both professionally and personally, in the latter case by trying to steer her into a more image-enhancing relationship with the Canadian prime minister (Alexander Skarsgard).

Although the notion of a woman running for President is ostensibly one of the elements driving “Long Shot” along, it doesn’t take long to realize that screenwriters Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah have virtually no interest in that particular subject or in politics in general. In fact, the political stuff in the film is so silly and contrived that it ends up subverting not just the story in general but the character of Charlotte in particular—if she is as smart and capable as depicted here, why would she be cheerfully serving as Secretary of State to a man who makes President Camacho from “Idiocracy” look like a learned genius by comparison? It doesn’t really matter, as it turns out, because as the film progresses, it becomes less about her ambitions to become the leader of the free world and more about her relationship with the uncouth doofus. In the end, not only does the entire film turn out to be about a guy who finally gets to sleep with the babysitter that he has been mooning over for years—one who is about to become President, no less—but she is the one who has to change and adapt in order to pave the way for the inevitable (Spoiler Alert) happy ending. Yes, the screenplay does include some topical barbs about how any woman entering politics has to be absolutely perfect in every possible way to even begin to warrant consideration—and even then, they are likely as not to be dismissed by many as being too ambitious for their own good—while men are cut unbelievable degrees of slack but that stuff tends to get shunted to the side in order to make way for the more overtly cringe-worthy material that many may find to be more gauche than giggle-worthy.

And yet, if you are able to put all of that questionable material aside and ignore how the film too often chooses to overlook Charlotte and her drives and ambitions in order to put Fred front and center, it does manage to provide enough entertainment value to warrant a recommendation. It contains a lot of laughs, ranging from weirdly hilarious one-liners (including a particularly amusing jab at a certain actress whose name I shall not reveal) to a very amusing sequence in which Fred and Charlotte decide to cut loose by clubbing clandestinely and getting stoned until Charlotte is taken away after trouble flares up overseas and she is forced to negotiate a resolution to the tense situation while high as a kite. In general, Theron is a delight here, even with material that doesn’t quite deserve it at times, and her performance serves as another reminder that she is one actress who really needs to do more comedies. Hell, she even manages to sort of make the central relationship between Charlotte and Fred vaguely plausible despite everything. For his part, Rogen is just fine but other than his willingness to wear some spectacularly ill-advised outfits here and there, his performance is virtually indistinguishable from most of his turns as of late.

If “Long Shot” had been made even a decade or so earlier, it might have come across as funnier and more incisive and most of its more questionable aspects might have gone overlooked. As it is, it is a perfectly fine and reasonably funny film that should prove to be perfectly satisfactory for a Saturday night at the movies as long as one doesn’t spend any of the time after the screening thinking about it at all. Despite what the ads may suggest, “Long Shot” is almost certainly not going to go down as the great romantic comedy of 2019 but until that one finally emerges, I suppose it will make do.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=31739&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/02/19 16:09:19
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2019 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2019 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/10/19 Bob Dog Best ROM-COM in ages - adorable and hilarious! 5 stars
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  03-May-2019 (R)
  DVD: 30-Jul-2019


  DVD: 30-Jul-2019

Directed by
  Jonathan Levine

Written by
  Dan Sterling

  Seth Rogen
  Charlize Theron
  O'Shea Jackson Jr.

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