Over the last few years, I’ve shied away from romantic comedies. They’re either ridiculously cheesy or just ridiculous, period. Once upon a time I liked the films, but that was before I realized those stories are basically the grown-up equivalents of Disney movies.
Before I digress too much, when I saw the trailer for “Long Shot,” I was intrigued. The film stars Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen as an unlikely couple. She is Charlotte Fields, the Secretary of State to a TV-actor-turned-president (Bob Odenkirk), while Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, a journalist who’s trying to fight the good fight in a world that doesn’t believe what news is real and what’s fake anymore.
After learning the president isn’t going to seek re-election, Charlotte begins eyeing her own presidential run in 2020. But, she faces a huge hurdle: she’s not a man. In an effort to improve her image, her chief of staff Maggie (June Diane Raphael), finds possible speech writers who could make Charlotte seem funnier and more likable. Fred, who has recently quit his journalism job, isn’t Maggie’s first choice, but he has a history with Charlotte: She was his babysitter when he was 13.
Yeah, he was 13 and still needed a babysitter. She was only three years older, but apparently this minor age gap didn’t seem important to the writers. Long story short, he needs a job, and she has a soft spot for dorks. She hires Fred to travel with her as her new speechwriter. Charlotte is trying to pass an environmental initiative that could change the world ... if the corrupt people in charge — like the president — don’t kill her plans first.
In case you hadn’t noticed, this movie has a bit of a political angle to it. As we were leaving, I even told my boyfriend the film wouldn’t sit well with those of a certain political persuasion. After all, “Long Shot” applies to a lot more than just the super awkward romance between Charlotte and Fred.
Sure, they’re an odd couple. A really odd couple, but that’s the point, right? Charlize Theron is flawless. She’s gorgeous, statuesque and pretty dang perfect. And then, there’s Seth Rogen who’s maybe not who you picture when you think of “the ideal man.” Also, he talks like a Muppet, but that’s beside the point. To Theron’s credit, while Fred never quite seems a good fit for Charlotte, she seems like a good fit for him. She’s precious in this film, y’all. From her Boyz II Men fangirling to showing off her comedic chops, Theron is flawless even when she’s playing a bit of a dork.
But, as I said, the relationship isn’t the only long shot here. The film makes no secret of the fact that Charlotte’s sex is a huge impediment to her future plans. The president tells her at one point she’s been a great secretary (lowercase) and says “whatever” when she clarifies her title. She’s judged upon all kinds of crazy criteria from what products she uses in her hair, to her elegance, to her wave. She is not simply a politician. She’s a woman who is a politician, which means she’s judged on a whole new level of criteria.
Charlotte’s environmental plan comes under fire, as well. It’s broken into parts, and again and again, she faces opposition from countries or political groups that don’t necessarily like all the parts of the initiative. Saving the planet is great, as long as it doesn’t get in their way. Even the president and media mogul Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis, in a thinly veiled portrayal of Rupert Murdoch) are her greatest opposition. In a way, saving the Earth is a long shot in this film, too.
“Long Shot” isn’t a perfect film. At times, I might even be hard-pressed to call it a great one. It’s a film with a heavy-handed agenda that won’t sit well with a good number of people in this country, including many of my readers. Many won’t want to see the president in the film be the punchline of a few jokes, even though he’s a crooked buffoon. They won’t like the comparisons to Fox News that are made throughout the film. There are lot of politically charged moments in the film, such as Fred’s best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), a black man, noting he was one of a small number of black people at a very white event.
Theron and Rogen are fun together. No, I can’t imagine them dating in real life, but they’re fun here. Honestly, that’s the point of the film. We shouldn’t be judging anyone or anything based on appearance. “Never judge a book by its cover” and all that. Theron and Rogen play off each other fairly well, and I even found myself laughing a couple of times, such as when he introduces her to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The film goes beyond your standard rom-com. Yes, there are elements there, and it’s still pretty formulaic as far as stories go. But, “Long Shot” also adds in its own special touches. This is a film about feminism as much as it is a film about a romantic duo. It’s a film about activism and empathy, even when it’s not being empathetic, as I’ve noted above. All of those contradictions make for an interesting movie. Just not a really good one.