SXSW Review: LONG SHOT is smart, hilarious rom-com escapism starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen
James C. Clay// Film Critic
Seth Rogen has made a successful brand for himself as a movie star existing in spaces that allows for a loose improvisational feel, and those get laughs and sell tickets, but he is most successful when he’s playing at the heartstrings. His endearing goofball persona is a disarming and welcoming presence time and time again. He aligns with filmmaker Jonathan Levine (50/50, THE NIGHT BEFORE) for a third time with the political romantic comedy LONG SHOT starring alongside another gargantuan movie star Charlize Theron (ATOMIC BLONDE). The film has a charming, if not an obvious conceit that follows and then break the rules of the genre while feeling wholly earnest in the process. Destined to be the date movie of the Summer when the film gets released May the unlikely pairing of Theron and Rogen will please even those with the iciest of hearts. Like recent socially charged films, LONG SHOT asks its viewers to drop the agenda and celebrate equality and moving forward. This is one of the more refreshing creative collaborations to hit mainstream comedy in a while.
Fred Flarsky (Rogen) is a journalist in Washington D.C. motivated to work for the people and not be corrupted by corporate greed, which constantly gets in the way of his professional goals. Charlotte Field is a powerful and poised woman who wakes up at 3:35 am, is a master of multi-tasking, and also happens to be the Secretary of State. Charlotte was Fred’s babysitter growing up, and after an embarrassing moment of burgeoning puberty for Fred the two have not spoken in 20 years. The film runs a tad long—around two hours—, but Levine spends the time with these two potential lovers, if you’re going to make a comedy longer than 90 minutes you do it with intense character work. After tagging along with his wealthy best friend/ motivational speaker (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) to a ritzy party complete with a Boyz II Men performance the two cross paths again by happenstance. Charlotte is impressed by Fred’s wit and typical Rogen like charm brings him in for an open speech writing position, the catch is she is preparing to run for President in 2020 so the pressure is on for Fred. The two embark on a worldwide campaign trail to push the Madame Secretary’s environmental proposal in hopes of getting her the presidential bid.
Rogen and Theron find chemistry quickly and develop a zippy and fun loving bond that is hilarious and often times sexy. The duo are comfortable working together using obscene language, riffing and improvising to find the right balance. Levine, who has made several comedies that tug at the heart strings, has elevated his comedies to a higher place of emotional truth while staying rooted to the R rated comedy formula; LONG SHOT is no exception.
The film harkens back to the days of political comedies that are void of cynicism, something such as 1995’s THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT comes to mind. Screenwriters Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah make a movie for the Trump era, by disarming the vitriolic nature that comes with uttering that name. The screenwriting duo find a sweet optimism in this film that’s filled with hope. While the idea of a Seth Rogen type sleeping with a Charlize Theron-esque is a long shot on pape, apparently so is the idea of a women being president, so let’s just say the title fits.
Filled with so many recognizable faces that radiate the screen audiences will have a blast pointing to bit parts from actors such as Bob Odenkirk (BETTER CALL SAUL) playing the President of the United States, who just so happen to play the POTUS on a television show for a decade. O’ Shea Jackson Jr. steals the show as Fred’s best friend who confidently tells him to follow his destiny, but not everything is at it seems with him. June Diane Raphael (BLOCKERS) relishes playing a by the book campaign manager, and if you look closely you’ll find Andy Serkis lurking about the film.
All in all LONG SHOT is a progressive and inviting vehicle for Rogen and Theron to flex their movie star muscles and make us feel good in the process. Even if you don’t love this film it’s hard to imagine anybody left, or right, outright disliking this film. This is going to be a big hit for all parties involved. Sit down for a smart, engaging and outright hilarious piece of escapism.
Final Grade: B+
LONG SHOT opens Nationwide May 3rd