By this point, we’re pretty familiar with how films will introduce us to a character played by Seth Rogen. There’ll be a cloud of smoke, a joint, a chill activity and probably some slow motion. Long Shot establishes very early on that it is not your typical Seth Rogen film, introducing us to his intrepid leftist journalist Fred Flarsky as he infiltrates a neo-Nazi gang in service of a story. It neatly establishes the heightened stakes of Long Shot’s world, and though it may not exactly break new cinematic ground, its global politics setting feels fresh in a romcom that entertains from start to finish.
Fred’s die-hard principals get him fired from his paper, but his caustic writing catches the eye of his old babysitter Charlotte Fields (Charlize Theron), who is now the Secretary of State and about to embark on a presidential run. She hires him to punch up her speeches as she seeks international support for a bold new climate bill, and they grow closer and closer in the confined spaces that define such a rigidly structured tour. What instantly makes Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling’s script feel so genuinely fun and jolly is that they never go down clichéd ‘relationship issues’ roads.
Fred and Charlotte genuinely like and respect one another, so the boring obstacles like jealousy and miscommunication don’t rear their heads. These are two self-possessed, confident people who enjoy talking to one another. It makes their relationship much more believable, especially important as Long Shot is another entry into the beautiful woman/schlubby guy canon, a genre that can easily go wrong. These potential problems are gracefully side-stepped by Rogen and Theron’s performances. Rogen is playing more ‘grown up’ than usual (despite the initial impressions given off by Fred’s dress sense) and Theron is absolutely perfect casting.
Not only is she compelling and hilarious – a scene in which Charlotte has to negotiate a hostage release while high on MDMA looks like an easy misfire on paper, but Theron nails it – the fact that she’s already an established superstar with her pick of roles shows that this is a project she actually wanted to take on. It’s a nice meta parallel to the power dynamics of the film itself that makes it that much more enjoyable. Surrounding the stars is a superb supporting cast, with June Diane Raphael and Straight Outta Compton’s O’Shea Jackson Jr, in particular, always threatening to steal the show.
Everyone gets a bunch of laugh out loud lines and director Jonathan Levine also conjures a litany of great sight gags. The story itself may strain credulity in just how much time and behavioural leeway Charlotte has, but the steady stream of laughs ensures that this is only a minor complaint. Long Shot exists in a slightly heightened world anyway, the main supporting characters of the geopolitical side of things fun caricatures of real-life figures. Parker Wembley (an unrecognisable Andy Serkis) is an obvious amalgam of the grotesque Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch, while Alexander Skarsgard gamely pokes fun at himself as a handsome but deeply dorky parody of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.
Long Shot steers clear of directly invoking Trump parallels though, President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk, very funny) bearing a far greater resemblance to Ronald Reagan as he announces his political retirement to instead achieve something greater; transitioning from TV actor to movie star. The political commentary is very broad and unchallenging, which hurts Long Shot’s credentials as a ‘timely’ movie, but its wholehearted embrace of romcom conventions while shaving off the genre’s worst storytelling tricks gives it a more timeless quality that is far more important.