By Miguel E. Rodriguez
Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Bob Odenkirk
My Rating: 8/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 81% Certified Fresh
PLOT: Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Theron) hires an out-of-work journalist (Rogen) as a speechwriter; when romance unexpectedly occurs, complications ensue.
So, yeah, based on that plot summary, this is not exactly new territory. We essentially have a gender-swapped The American President, except the President is now a Secretary of State, and Annette Bening is now Seth Rogen, whom the Secretary of State used to babysit in high school. Sounds kinda kooky, but still nothing earth-shattering, right?
Except that the filmmakers have found a way to take a plot as old as Pretty Woman itself, and as recent as She’s Out of Your League, and inject it with astonishing humor, topical and situational, so that I found myself laughing or grinning through nearly every second of Long Shot. And that was WITH Talky McTalkerson sitting next to us commenting to himself on the action. (“How are you gonna say no to that face? … Oh, no, they’re stoned! … Oh, no, he doesn’t understand her!”) But that’s another story…
I enjoyed so much in this movie, it’s hard to pick it apart for a review. I’m not sure why.
I liked the gender-bending aspect of it. It was cool to see a high-octane actor like Charlize Theron deliver the kind of speeches normally reserved for male romantic leads. And it wasn’t done in an obvious way. It’s something that only occurred to me after the scene was over. Most of the time.
I liked the topical aspect. Seth Rogen’s character is a high-minded reporter working for a liberal newspaper that has just been bought out by a multi-media conglomerate with a reputation for spewing propaganda. (“Not the good kind, like ours! The BAD kind!”) The conglomerate is owned by Parker Wembley, an obnoxious billionaire whose influence extends all the way to the White House. (I wouldn’t dream of revealing who plays Wembley, but it was a treat once I realized who was under all that makeup.)
The not-so-thinly veiled jabs at Fox News were a nice touch. Wembley has his own news network, and one of the newscasts asks the question, “Are women smart enough to be in positions of power? We’ll ask our panelists, Chris Brown, Jeremy Piven, and Brett Ratner.” (In a movie full of funny lines, that might be the funniest. Sorry I spoiled it for you.)
I also LOVED a scene between Seth Rogen and his best friend that gets a LITTLE political, but which really made me think about my own attitudes towards people with different political beliefs than mine. I don’t want to spoil the scene with too many details, but I bring it up just to emphasize how much this movie has going for it besides the obligatory big laughs.
And it has some BIG laughs. Rogen is an old hand at physical and raunchy comedy, but who knew that Charlize Theron would be able to keep pace with him? It’s not that she does the same kind of mugging that Rogen does. It’s the way she underplays her reactions to his behavior, and tries to keep her attraction to him low key for all sorts of reasons that make sense at the time.
Plus, Theron does get her moment in the comic spotlight when, after a hard day at work, she whispers to Rogen, “I want to smoke a molly.” What follows is something I never thought I’d see: Charlize Theron getting wasted on drugs and dancing at a rave. I can die happy.
(Trust me, I’m not spoiling too much, because this scene has an AMAZING comedy payoff that had me almost screaming with laughter.)
Long Shot covers some very old territory in very new ways. There are some amazing insights into the cultural landscape of the late “20-teens” that are fresh and funny and surprisingly thoughtful. If I had to change one thing about it, I might have tried to come up with a SLIGHTLY different ending, maybe one that didn’t tie everything up QUITE so neatly, but what am I saying? It’s a romantic comedy. Like they’re gonna make a rom-com where the girl DOESN’T get the guy, right?
(Yes, wiseguys, I know there are precedents – Roman Holiday among them – but that’s REALLY rare.)