Dan's Review: "Long Shot" takes on politics, romance and satire
May 02, 2019 07:00PM
By Dan Metcalf
Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in Long Shot - © 2019 Lionsgate.
Long Shot (Lionsgate)
Rated R for strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use.
Starring Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, Aviva Mongillo, O'Shea Jackson Jr., June Diane Raphael, Ravi Patel, Andy Serkis, Alexander Skarsgård, Randall Park, Bob Odenkirk, Tristan D. Lalla, James Saito, Randy Orton, Lisa Kudrow, Kurt Braunohler, Paul Scheer, Claudia O’Doherty.
Written by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah.
Directed by Jonathan Levine.
Political humor is a lost art these days, with extreme polarity of ideologies and partisan loyalty “trumping” (no pun intended) any common ground where folks can laugh at themselves. It seems that no one can take a joke without being offended and no one can tell a joke that doesn’t reach “burn” status of a dank meme, thereby “owning” the opposition. It’s become so bad that unless a comedian or filmmaker clearly signals their allegiance to the left or right (but, let’s be honest, mostly left), their content will be shunned by both sides for disloyalty. Long Shot is the latest attempt at political humor (with a little romance mixed in), but is it safe for our present uncivil climate?
Seth Rogen stars as Fred Flarsky, a journalist for a left-leaning news site that is purchased by a right-leaning media mogul Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis), who owns a 24-hour conservative news channel (stop me if this seems all-too-familiar). Fred quits on principle and drowns his sorrows with his pal Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) by attending a swanky party where the current secretary of state Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is in attendance. Charlotte is on the verge of announcing her bid for the U.S. presidency after current president Chambers (Bob Odenkirk) announces that he’s going back his career as TV and movie actor and giving up on being the leader of the free world. Turns out Charlotte and Fred are well acquainted, since she was once his babysitter, and he had a major crush on her as a teenage boy. Trying to enhance her image among young voters Charlotte hires Fred to be her campaign speechwriter, much to the chagrin of her assistants Maggie (June Diane Raphael) and Tom (Ravi Patel). Despite their differences in appearances, fashion, and style, Fred and Charlotte hit it off, eventually becoming secret lovers. Their relationship is put to the test when President Chambers threatens to withdraw his endorsement for Charlotte’s campaign after Wembley asserts political influence over a development that threatens the environment. Charlotte must decide whether to compromise her principles for the presidency or make her relationship with Fred public.
Long Shot has a few things going for it. First is the script, full of substantial humor that does not rely heavily on Rogen’s tendency to riff on views about drugs, culture, and politics (even though he does it in the movie). Point being, there is real and (really funny) dialogue beyond Rogen’s worn-out freelancing tendencies. Second, there is some chemistry between Rogen and Theron, and it’s more than the clichéd “opposites attract” theme we’ve seen in so many other romantic comedies. Third, there is some political humor that offers a little perspective for those who are wary of the polarization that persists in our contemporary world. That perspective comes from a surprise conservative character who gives Fred a nice smackdown regarding his political life in a vacuum.
Long Shot has its flaws as well. It’s a movie that swaggers somewhere between a total farce, a romantic comedy, and pure satire as if Dr. Strangelove fathered a child with Pretty Woman. This confusion among genres is also complimented by some sexual humor that goes a little too far, so you could add American Pie to the movie’s family tree as well.
It should also be noted that even though screenwriters Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah throw a bone to conservatives, the rest of the film has a far-left slant to it that may not resonate with folks in flyover country. Even so, Long Shot is good for a few laughs – if you can put aside political differences for a couple of hours.
"Long Shot" Trailer