Jonathan Levine’s “Long Shot” works pretty well as a romantic comedy and somewhat as a look into the workings of the United States’ political system. When it comes to capturing how Washington D.C. operates, the film is about as insightful as “House of Cards,” which is to say – not too much. However, there are two interesting – if somewhat underdeveloped – concepts at play in the film that speak to our current moment.
In the film, Seth Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, a schlubby but passionate journalist who works for a Brooklyn rag that is on the verge of being bought by a shady conglomerate that is run by a sleazy out-of-central-casting conservative (Andy Serkis) in the Rupert Murdoch vein. When we meet Fred, he is in the middle of exposing a right-wing hate group and barely makes it out alive. One night, he’s dragged to a party by a pal (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) with the promise of a Boyz II Men performance. Once there, he spots Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), the nation’s secretary of state and Fred’s one-time babysitter on whom he had a crush.
Before attending the party, Fred had quit in protest of his company’s buyout, so an opportune moment presents itself after he and Charlotte reconnect and he learns that she has a speechwriting gig open for her upcoming presidential run. Charlotte has recently been told by the U.S. president (Bob Odenkirk), a former TV personality clearly meant to be a Donald Trump type, but seemingly less sinister and controversial, that he does not plan to run for reelection and he’s considering an endorsement for her. She has become accustomed to towing the party line with her boss, but has ideas of her own – especially an environmental platform about which the president seems lukewarm.
“Long Shot” mostly settles on being a charming and often funny rom-com. It only occasionally attempts to make any serious commentary on the U.S. political system, but it manages to successfully bounce two ideas around. The film is interesting in how it portrays Fred as a member of the Democratic Party’s Bernie Sanders wing – idealistic but unwilling to compromise – whereas Charlotte is more of a centrist who, as a woman, understands that compromise is often how things get done.
Secondly, the film occasionally observes the challenges a woman faces when running for a high position, such as the president of the United States. From her staff, she often gets pointers on how to make her poll numbers go up by making changes to her appearance, improving her wave, showing more of her sense of humor and playing up a flirtatious friendship with a Canadian leader (Alexander Skarsgard) who is clearly modeled after Justin Trudeau. Voters, she is told, are less interested in her actual policies.
The fact that Charlotte chooses Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love” as her favorite song, and that the tune is played twice during the picture gives an indication on the picture’s inspirations lie. The song was the theme for “Pretty Woman,” but in this film, Theron is Richard Gere and Rogen is Julia Roberts. While the political elements of “Long Shot” are occasionally far fetched and a little half-baked, the movie works pretty well as a romantic comedy. Rogen is consistently funny and Theron’s character has a genuine arc during the course of the picture.
“Long Shot” may only be superficially interested in making a statement about our current political moment – that would require more of a punch in the gut, considering the recent turn of events – but it’s a funny and charming two hours spent in good company.