As acclaimed indie film director Jim Jarmusch once said: “Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.” The rom-com is not a dead genre but it has been sorely tested by clichés and overused tropes. This means that romantic comedies in which both the romance and the comedy feel authentic are few and far between. Luckily Long Shot feels both authentically romantic and funny thanks mostly to a commitment to both of these things rather than the safe choice of another Seth Rogen stoner comedy.
Fred Flarsky (Rogen) is a recently unemployed journalist. His best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr) takes Fred out to commiserate at a Boyz II Men concert. There he meets Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) who just so happens to be Fred’s old babysitter. After reading some of Fred’s articles Charlotte decides to hire him as a speechwriter for her upcoming presidential bid. The two begin to fall for each other but their relationship is tested at every turn by the Canadian Prime Minister James Steward (Alexander Skarsgård), media mogul Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis) and current US President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk).
Long Shot opens with Fred jumping out of a third storey window to escape a neo-Nazi group he’s secretly recording. From the moment it begins Long Shot asks you to suspend a certain degree of disbelief as Seth Rogen bounces like a rubber ball off a car bonnet and hits the ground. A good pratfall goes a long way to open a comedy and the movie doesn’t waste that kinetic energy instead using it as a springboard to launch into the rest of the film. This suspension of disbelief helps steer mostly clear of any serious political discourse.
The men of the movie, including Fred, are mostly bumbling dimwits like President Chambers, pretty faces such as James Steward or just plain evil like Wembley. The women – of which there are two – are shown to be capable, commanding and cold to a fault. Of course both open up as the film goes on but politics is still mostly a man’s world so it’s easy to see why Theron’s Charlotte and June Diane Raphael’s Maggie act this way. Long Shot’s only real political statement is that the shit male politicians so consistently get away with would doom a female politician’s career. It’s a sound one to make and it helps that it comes from Theron’s mouth who is one of Hollywood’s best leading ladies and a real powerbroker in the industry.
When the film slows down for its romantic scenes I never found myself rolling my eyes or wishing for it to be over. For however disparate Theron and Rogen might be in terms of looks they have incredible chemistry together and are capable of using that to create romantic tension that sizzles, crackles and boils over. A later scene has Fred take Charlotte out to a club so she can cut loose anonymously and do ecstasy. It joins the ranks of other great ecstasy scenes from the likes of Magic Mike XXL and This Is The End both for its accuracy and comedy. It also underscores – in a weird, tripped out sort of way – just how much these characters care for each other. The Secretary of State wouldn’t do drugs with just any one, you know?
The rom-com comeback is strong so far this year though not for an abundance of originality. This kind of film has come along before though admittedly the roles are usually reversed. Still with two leads as likable as Rogen and Theron coupled with Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah’s warm, authentic script Long Shot is one of the best rom-coms of the year. It might not be original but as legendary French director Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”