Released: 2nd May
Seen: 23rd April (Preview screening)
Just scroll back up a little and look at the poster again, I’ll wait. Do you notice that it’s basically the exact poster you expect it to be for almost any rom-com? Seriously, picture the standard rom-com about an awkward guy who’s a little rough around the edges (or even just completely made of edges) who falls for a woman who is so far out of his league that it’s almost funny. Sitcoms thrive on this, King of Queens, The Simpsons and Married with Children just to name a few. It’s also a big trend in movies, Adam Sandler basically made a career out of it until Seth Rogen came out and played the everyman stoner who falls for the insanely attractive woman and they fall for each other. Do you enjoy those kinds of movies? Great, then you’ll like this one and no longer need to hear my lengthy diatribe on why I also enjoy this movie… but please keep reading anyway, page views give me validation.
Long Shot follows Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), a journalist who is known for his hard-hitting exposés for a newspaper called The Advocate. After doing an exposé on a group of Nazis, Fred goes back to his little paper to find out that they’ve been bought by a large multinational conglomerate. This conglomerate is owned by the thinly-veiled Rupert Murdoch parody Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis) and since Fred has written numerous articles about Parker and thinks that he’s ruining the entire country with his news networks rhetoric (SUBTLE), Fred quits his job. He goes to hang out with his friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) who takes him to a fancy party that’ll have Boys II Men playing there. When they get there, however, Fred notices Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) across the room. Charlotte used to be Fred’s babysitter when they were growing up but now she’s the secretary of state and is planning on starting her own presidential campaign. After Charlotte reads some of Fred’s articles, she decides to hire him to help punch up a few of her speeches while she travels the world to try and get people to sign up for a massive environmental treaty (SUBTLE!!!) and while she deals with the way that she, as a woman, is treated differently in a political campaign (OH THE SUBTLETY!!) she also might just be falling for the man she used to babysit when he was a child.
Let’s not pretend this plot is original, not even for a moment. Almost every romantic comedy boils down to this basic plot of two people who are complete opposites meet, have an excuse to spend a long amount of time together, they get together, usually she comes down to his level and everyone says “Aww” really loudly at the end when they kiss and the dramatic orchestra swells while the camera flies away. This is so standard that it’s genuinely surprising when a rom-com breaks this structure. So, Long Shot isn’t going to be doing that today, but in its place they are going load you up on pure chemistry and charm that will make up for that in spades. Most rom-coms heavily rely on the believability of the main two actors and if they make you believe that these characters would get together and sometimes that works brilliantly, sometimes it really doesn’t, but in this case the two actors bounce off each other with such ease that it elevates the material to its ultimate potential.
There’s a large amount of time spent during this movie to very slyly comment on a lot of recent political issues without actually stating them outright. Beyond our not-even-a-little-bit-subtle Rupert Murdoch analogue, you get your jokes about Trump via President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk) who is described as a man who played the president on TV but then got elected president. With Charlotte playing the role of “Woman running for president” we basically get to make a ton of jokes that are nods to the 2016 election but aren’t so specific about it that they’ll date the movie too much (unlike some other movies that tried to make political jokes and ended up doing nothing but give me a mild aneurysm) and all of the jokes feel earned in the narrative. There are a few moments that do rely a lot on Seth Rogen yelling and at points that can lose some of its lustre but, for the most part, the jokes work. There are some weird moments where they border on pure slapstick, especially at the start of the movie where Fred leaps from the window of the Nazi meeting, down several floors, slams into a car and lands on pavement before he just gets up and limps away… like, he should be kind of dead after that, but luckily those moments are few and far between.
Speaking of things that are few and far between, there aren’t any real missteps with the plot of this film either. It follows that good old rom-com plotline to the letter with exactly one exception… she doesn’t go down to his level. Go back through a lot of movies about two people who are complete opposites getting together and you will notice this pattern of the woman changing who she is in order to be with the guy, this is literally a recurring motif that has gone on so long that we barely even think about it but this film never really asks her to go down to his level. She certainly does change by opening up more and realising that she doesn’t want to just play politics but be herself, but that never involves her stooping to his level. She’s certainly tempted to give things up to protect him, it’s brought up, but she never has to lower her ambitions or who she is to be with him, which is just a nice change of pace. If anything, he basically has to earn her respect by growing as a person and smoothing a few of those edges out along the way. It’s just nice to see that change in dynamic in a film that has a series of jokes about teenage boners over several minutes; it’s a nice change of pace.
Look, I can’t really pretend this film is something unique and original or even stands out that much. It’s exactly what it says it’s going to be when you look at the poster. It’s a romantic comedy where Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron have comical exploits for 2 hours and you knew how it was going to go the second you walked in. What makes it work is it’s wonderfully written and hilariously funny with some great chemistry from the leads that hold everything together. It’s a good charming few hours that you will enjoy spending between your 14th and 15th viewing of Endgame, which I believe will actually be out by the time this movie hits cinemas.