A sharp satire of contemporary politics leavened by an unlikely romance.
Grade: B +
Director: Jonathan Levine (Snatched)
Screenplay: Dan Sterling (The Interview), Liz Hannah (The Post)
Cast: Seth Rogen (The End), Charlize Theron (Monster)
Runtime: 2 hr 5 min
By: John DeSando
“I'm a racist. You're a Republican. I don't know what is wrong with me.” Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen)
That’s the crazy humor of this important 2019 romcom: Not all of it makes sense, but, heck, the importance of Rogen’s patented, schlubby stoner is to point out the contradictions of contemporary middle-class life with a light touch. In Long Shot, politics is the whipping post in all its narrow, crazy idealism.
Long Shot is an important film, not just because Rogen and Charlize Theron as secretary of state Charlotte Field are an unlikely romantic couple, but because Trump, Clinton, and Trudeau appear in the sharp allegory about vain and tough politics that force the best to act their worst. Most of the time, the laughs are on them, as, for instance, the president (Bob Odenkirk) cares more about his past TV triumphs and his future in film than he does about honesty in governing.
Nor does Theron’s thinly disguised Hillary Clinton as Madam Secretary come off sometimes any better while she waffles on her core beliefs in order to secure the presidential nomination. Hooking up with former young love Fred does redeem her because his honest liberalism about saving trees, for instance, syncs with her good intentions, albeit her retreat from her idealism causes serious trouble for their budding romance.
The humor is largely in the satire of pretentious and corrupt politicians, most of whom sell their souls daily for expediency. Yet the romance of Charlotte and Fred is so light and sometimes realistically fragile that it lends a sweetness to the caustic circumstances that try to alter their better angels.
Critics of this romantic comedy could rightfully complain the couple is grossly mismatched, he a staunchly progressive writer with ordinary looks, she of shrewd convictions with a Hollywood appearance. However, that mismatch makes their connection all the sweeter because of the opposites-attract motif and because any amelioration of her aggressive persona is that much more attractive to a jaded audience.
As for the feminist aspirations of this comedy, they are obvious in her growingly liberal profile and her difficulties as a female aspirant to the presidency. It’s easy enough to picture Charlize as a president and easy enough to see the hurdles that are higher than a man’s.
Because romance is really what this film game is about, when the couple view the Northern Lights in Sweden, he is believably sentimental and she is falling in love:
Charlotte Field: Are you crying?
Fred Flarsky: [sheepishly] ... It's pretty.
I recommend Long Shot as a light-hearted take on flawed current global politics and the enduring allure of romantic comedy, no matter how fraught it is.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com