It didn’t take me long to get on board with Long Shot. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron starring together as the unlikely double act is a delightful throwback to rom-coms of yesteryear. And with all due respect, they don’t make these types of films anymore, especially when it heavily reminds you of a reversed version of Pretty Woman (right down to the inclusion of Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love). But seriously, when you have R&B royalty in Boyz II Men showing up in a cameo appearance, the term “oh my God, this is my jam” has never felt so true!
But fangirling aside, Long Shot is a rare gem amongst the hyper-marketed, big-budgeted, studio tentpole releases we tend to see, and for what it is worth, it’s not afraid of being the underdog. It seems almost irrelevant to point out its familiar and comforting beats of a story we’ve seen played out a thousand times over. But having said that, it’s nice to see a film that lovingly embraces its conventional, mismatched love tale, with an apt sharpness for social and political relevance that firmly places it in the ‘laugh-out-loud’ hierarchy. Honestly, I haven’t been this enamoured with a rom-com of this political scale since Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline starred in Dave.
Praise must be given to the natural restraint of Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling’s script. Weaving a measured web between the romance and its satirical edge, it never feels that overt pressure to overdo things, poking fun at media-obsessed Presidents, world leaders and line-crossing media moguls with their real-life counterparts. It runs the risk of feeling dated in a few years, given how quickly the political spectrum can change. But in its breezy, 110-minute runtime, it manages to keep an enjoyable focus that joyfully exposes the nature of modern politics and the hypocrisy behind them without going completely overboard.
That restraint works in favour of Seth Rogen. I have always found his comedies to be a bit of a hit and miss. Yes, comedies can be subjective, but for every Bad Neighbours and Knocked Up, you get God awful instances like Sausage Party. Just like his previous characters, he has perfected a go-to stereotypical routine – a character that doesn’t look like your typical, Hollywood ‘stud muffin’, but an ordinary yet relatable ‘stoner’ guy with a finesse for epic pratfalls who essentially has to grow up before the end of the film. He doesn’t stray too far from that path in playing a ‘for the people’ investigative journalist with strong, moral and idealistic principles, assigned to work for Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) as her speechwriter and support her environmental aspirations. But to give Seth credit where it is due, that ‘loveable outsider’ shtick works, combining drama with the comedy that made him famous.
But not surprisingly, Long Shot prides itself in the continued, versatile revelation that is Charlize Theron. No stranger to comedies having done that dance with Seth MacFarlane in A Million Ways to Die in the West, Theron here excels, flexing her comedic palette and equally matching Rogen’s awkward, off-beat, situational style comedy. I mean, if anyone can resolve a hostage situation after an intoxicating, drug-filled bender, its Charlize’s Charlotte who can!
But Charlize adds an empathetic feminist voice to Charlotte, understanding the intensified struggles of perfection and living up to falsified ideas of what is expected of women. Scrutinised in the public eye and ‘micro-napping’ her way through the obstacles just to stay on top of the double standards, it’s a brilliant yet subtle examination that comments on sexism and gender politics without treating that aspect as a punchline that makes a mockery of it, knowing the transcendent effect it has on Charlotte. You can immediately tell Charlize relished this performance, allowing her to blend between a classy and sophistication of Charlotte’s high powered lifestyle and Presidential aspirations but not afraid to get messy and frolic amongst the outlandish antics. It’s a timely reminder that comedy is nothing without substance, and Theron executes her role with stylised confidence and intelligence that is worth the hype.
Perhaps, Long Shot also works because of perceived low expectations. The combined comedic pair of Theron and Rogen on paper shouldn’t work. But they bounce off the same hymn sheet, injecting the Jonathan Levine directed film with a corpus amount of energy and on-screen hilarity. But because their romantic interests are not driven by the necessity of the plot, but through genuine motivations of their characters, that good-natured joy does come at a surprise and illustrate that there’s still life to good comedies.
Long Shot doesn’t exactly ‘re-invent the wheel’ in terms of its romantic formula and predictability. But as a charming, crowd-pleasing vehicle with a bucket load of heart on its laugh out loud ride, it certainly got my vote.
Dir: Jonathan Levine
Scr: Liz Hannah & Dan Sterling
Cast: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ravi Patel, Andy Serkis, Randall Park and Alexander Skarsgård.
Prd: Charlize Theron, James Weaver, A.J. Dix, Evan Goldberg, Beth Kono, Seth Rogen
DOP: Yves Bélanger
Music: Marco Beltrami & Miles Hankins
Runtime: 110 mins
Long Shot arrives on Digital Download on 30th August and Ultra HD blu-ray, blu-ray & DVD on 9th September