Long Shot

LONG SHOT. Starring: Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O’Shea Jackson Jr., June Diane Raphael,  Ravi Patel, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgard, Andy Serkis, Bob Odenkirk, and Lisa Kudrow. Directed by Jonathan Levine. Rated M (Coarse language, sex and drug use). 125 min.

This American romantic comedy tells the story of a journalist who cements a relationship with his  former babysitter, who has decided to run for the Office of the President of the United States (in  the year 2020). It stars two unlikely actors, who combine their talents to create a lively romantic comedy. In narrative terms, the movie is a calculated “Long Shot”, and it scores.

Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is an unemployed, free-spirited, liberal-minded journalist with a history of personal misfortune. He lost his last job to a power-hungry media baron (Andy Serkis) who purchased his newspaper (a part that pointedly satirises Rupert Murdoch). Feeling depressed and unwanted, he contacts a rich friend (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), who takes him to a political fund-raising dinner in Manhattan where he happens to meet his ex-baby sitter.

Fred suddenly finds himself on the support staff for Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), America’s current Secretary of State. She has been approached by an inept President of the United States (Bob Odenkirk) to run as a candidate for the Oval Office - the current President was once a TV star, and has decided he now wants to act in movies. Charlotte is single and accomplished, and seems the perfect female candidate. She is a well known workaholic, and although she realises that she has none of the political advantages of being male, she is keen to run as a woman to get the Presidency.

At the trendy political party, Charlotte recognises Fred as someone she was in high school with, and she remembers that she used to babysit him. Charlotte knows that being President requires that she loosen up a little, so she impulsively hires Fred as her speechwriter - against the better judgement of her campaign team (June Diane Raphael, and Ravi Patel) which would much prefer her to date the handsome, camera-conscious, Prime Minister of Canada (Alexander Skarsgard).

Romance blossoms between Fred and Charlotte. Fred charms Charlotte with his self-effacing humour and stories about her idealistic past (she was his school’s student-body president), and Fred finds himself again in the company of the woman he once had a crush on. Charlotte is attracted to Fred’s spontaneity and freshness, and their falling for each other propels them into some dangerous situations, but they only serve to push Fred and Charlotte closer together.

Rogen and Theron have excellent chemistry together, and they work amazingly well as a pair. Rogen’s uncouth, awkward charm mixes just right with Theron’s elegance and sophistication, and the contrast between them creates terrific comedy in unusual ways. The film’s scripting is wittily focused on their contrasting personalities, and together they manage to send up contemporary politics in grand satirical style. Lisa Kudrow cleverly satirises the kind of image-consultant, who is paid to deliver the best “appearance” of hopeful candidates on the American political scene.

Accompanying the comic antics, issues of serious weight lurk beneath the film’s surface. They include the hypocrisy and shallowness of modern politicians, the way politics and the media treat women as second-class citizens, and what is expected of men who decide to encourage the women in their lives. Overarching these issues is a dramatic emphasis on the need among those expected to lead the people they serve, to stand up for what they genuinely believe in. The film has obvious links to Hilary Clinton, Rupert Murdoch, Justin Trudeau, Donald Trump, and others. It is full of contemporary political references, that provides cynical, satirical commentary on modern politics. It doesn’t lecture on its issues. Rather, it directs its focus so that the issues emerge non-threateningly out of comic scenarios.

The film is raunchy, and the movie offers a lot of crudity. Despite this, however, it is a romantic comedy that cleverly offers political parody for familiar places and faces.

Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

Lionsgate Films

Released May 2nd., 2019