If your politics lean left and you dread the dinner table conversation with your conservative relatives at the next holiday get-together, here’s what you do. Recommend they see Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in the wish-fulfillment romantic comedy Long Shot and tell them they’ll love it. They may never talk to you again.
The Democrat from Pennsylvania, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is the current Secretary of State with an eye to running for president. She’s gifted, intelligent, poised, and with her natural good looks, perfect for the camera, plus her approval ratings are high in almost every category, except one – her humor. According to the polls, when it comes to wit, she lacks that certain something in her speeches. The message itself is fine, if only she could make things sound a little more, well, playful, more relatable. “Okay, fine,” she states when told her elbow movement makes people feel uncomfortable, “I’ll work on the wave.”
Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is a journalist. He’s unkempt, argumentative, and snarky. In other words, he’s playing anything you’ve ever seen before by Seth Rogan. And now he’s unemployed. He can’t stand the idea that his employers have sold out to a Rupert Murdoch media mogul type called Parker Wembley (an unrecognizable Andy Serkis), so he does what every hothead does when sticking to his principles – he quits. Then, a chance meeting at a fundraising event reunites Fred with Charlotte. They knew one another. They grew up living next door to each other. When he was thirteen, she was the sixteen-year-old babysitter, and he had the biggest crush. He still does, but it’s not quite the same when your teenage babysitter grew to be one of the most influential and powerful women in the world and you’re still Seth Rogan.
Charlotte needs a speechwriter that can inject a sense of humor. Fred is unemployed. After reading much of his work online and liking the humor and the political angle of his writing, Charlotte hires him to punch-up her speeches. “You get me, Fred,” she tells him. And though you’ll never believe it – it’s a really tough hurdle to climb – the accomplished, sophisticated, stylish, not to mention drop-dead gorgeous politician with a potentially huge political future falls in love with the slovenly bearded and often downright annoying schlub who favors the vagrant look, even though it could ruin her potential presidential chances. As Charlotte’s key adviser Maggie (June Diane Raphael) points out, the ‘optics’ of Fred being seen with Charlotte in public is not good.
Make no mistake, Long Shot is raunchy comedy. Adults act like adolescents, F-bombs drop, drugs are consumed, and sophomoric humor abounds. Yet the film is funny, often very funny with several big laughs. It’s even endearing. Plus, the wish-fulfillment factor of a horny teenager’s sexual fantasy is fully realized. By having sex with the Secretary of State, Fred is also finally making it with the babysitter. After being caught in a compromising position with Charlotte by her bodyguard (Tristan D. Lalla), Fred later asks the guy if he’d keep things to himself. “No one would believe me, anyway,” responds the guard.
There are also thinly-veiled jabs at Fox Cable News, here called Wembley Cable, and how it reports things with its own certain take on events, including a funny parody of the three talking heads of Fox & Friends with a great final reel payoff. Ever since seeing the clip where the three hosts on the couch unforgivably called Mister Rogers evil – no joke, they actually called him “evil” – insisting that he ruined a generation of children by telling them they were special, if anyone needs to be the merciless target of satire it has to be those three dunderheads.
The opening sequence with Fred undercover at a right-wing nationalist meeting is unpleasantly strained in both look and language as if it’s setting the tone for a completely different film. Plus, even though Charlotte often tells Fred how well he writes, we never really get to hear much of his work in action. We just have to take Charlotte’s word for it. But the script by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah has plenty of good lines of its own. When Charlotte orders a limo to pick Fred up from Brooklyn in order to bring him all the way to Washington to tell him privately that she’s considering running for president, Fred, still wondering why he’s even there, replies, “Great. Are you telling each American individually?” And later, when arriving in Buenos Aires as part of Charlotte’s planet-saving Global Rehabilitation Initiative Tour, Fred observes, “I think the guys who killed my grandparents are hiding out here somewhere.”
The film’s title can mean one of two things. Either it’s the odds against Charlotte becoming the nation’s first female president or it refers to the chances that someone like Charlotte in her position could ever seriously fall for someone like Fred. Or it’s both, considering that one can ruin the political chances of the other. But when you think of it, in a world where a married reality TV presenter is now president and is confirmed to have paid hush money via his lawyer to a porn star with whom he had an affair and yet can still garner the support of most of the country’s evangelists, any wild and crazy fantasy in the world of politics is up for grabs.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 123 Minutes