Jonathan Levine’s “Long Shot” asks us to buy into the concept that Charlize Theron can be attracted to Seth Rogen. Theron plays highly-succesful, 40-ish, Secretary of State Charlotte Field, who is also planning a presidential run for the White House. Rogen is Fred Flarsky — an unemployed journalist hired by Charlotte as her speechwriter, in part because she babysat him when she was in her teens. So, not only is Charlotte such a physically attractive mismatch for Rogen, but she is older than him as well and way more successful. Can this happen in real life? Theron is only six years older than Rogen, but she’s still Charlize Theron, hotness personified, the woman of my dreams, and he’s still Seth effin’ Rogen (not to diss him in any way) — what are the chances of this kind of romance actually happening? The slogan for the film reads “unlikely but not impossible.” At least Levine has the courtesy to admit that a story such as this one is rare.
Thus, the film’s fate resides on the chemistry between its two leads, and on that front, “Long Shot” is succesful. After all, if you can suspend your disbelief of the political world the film portrays, in which, as Charlotte says, there is a “dumbfuck” president in the White House (“Better Call Saul” actor Bob Odenkirk) who wants to trade the presidency for a movie career, then you’re all set-up for what is, in essence, a very entertaining movie.
Charlotte is the President’s Secretary of State and she badly needs the idiot president’s endorsement. Once she gets it, she needs to change her image for the people, since, despite her articulate smarts, Charlotte, according to her PR team, lacks a sense of humor. Enter Flarsky, who used to write for the hip political site, “The Advocate,” but was recently fired. Charlotte’s handlers are not happy; they see Flarsky as a threat, a potentially damaging PR nightmare for the candidate. When Flarsky and Field start falling for each other, though, the handlers’ attempts to break them apart turns into overdrive. These handlers are played by the magnificent deadpan comedy duo of June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel, who absoluely nail their supporting roles here, especially Raphael, who by a simple smirk or nod, conveys indelibly funny comedy.
Levine (“50/50”) infuses his made-up political world with enough farce for us to not take it so seriously, which was a smart move. The script by Dan Sterling (“The Interview”) and Liz Hannah (“The Post”) includes a persistent, Trudeau-like Canadian Prime Minister (a playfully scene-chewing Alexander Skarsgård), who wants to desperately get inside Charlotte’s pants, much to the delight of her press-hungry PR team.
With all that said, “Long Shot” is very much, what we’ve come to know as, a Seth Rogen movie through and through. There’s raunch, sex jokes, gender wars, childish but giddy romance and, a lot, of schlubiness. There’s also a skit-like, almost episodic nature to its jokes, which makes it a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously but still manages to have enough heart for you to care about the outcome. However, most importantly, it all works because Theron and Rogen somehow manage to find the inexplainable spark that ignites the romance between their characters, which makes the implausibility of this love story feel like an afterthought. [B]