The dyed-in-the-wool fairytale rom-com joint, filtered through the pipe of an Apatow-style piece, Jonathan Levine’s “Long Shot” works as well as it does because it knows how to have fun on the way to the happily-ever-after card. Those gut-busting laughs, those heartwarming feels, the beautiful message subtly hidden beneath the fun flooring .. this is the movie we need right now. Escape the pain of life, slip the arm out of the sleeve for an injection of its joy. This is “Pretty Woman” dressed down and guzzling from a beer cap, “She’s All That” without the makeup montage, and “The American President” wearing a smelly, unsightly tracksuit.
Now here’s an odd unit that, like Gere and Roberts in Garry Marshall’s aforesaid ‘90s favourite, would seemingly take a lot of convince – but thanks to winnable, charismatic and very enthusiastic performances by the leads, you’re with it all the way. You want lady to end up with tramp, no questions.
As far as unlikely couplings go, you can’t imagine a more mismatched twosome than Charlize Theron – she of the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’ tag – and Seth Rogen – he of the ‘shaggy stoner with the distinctive laugh’ – fame. Which is, of course, the whole idea of this movie — that a woman like Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Theron) would never fall for someone like Fred Flarsky (Rogen), and yet his non-traditional blend of boyish charm, vulnerability and confidence indeed skyrockets him to the top of her list.
When Secretary Field decides to use President Chambers’ (Bob Odenkirk) decision not to re-run for office as her jumping point to run for President in 2020, with the support of Chambers. With a new environmental policy in tow, Field hires Flarsky, a journalist and childhood friend, to punch up her speeches with a bit more humour with the aim of improving her stand in the polls. The two connect on more than just a work level, but thus begins the humourous journey of balancing being professional and finding time for fun in the crazy world of politics.
Theron, who Hollywood seems to have under-utilised in recent years (prioritising her legs and looks, not acting, with forgettable turns in such films as “Atomic Blonde” and “The Fate of the Furious”), is the best she’s been in years here. In what’s a refreshingly very different role for the South African model turned actor, she’s energised, hysterical, welcomingly vulnerable and predominantly, adorable as the sweet, scared girl cloaked in a power suit. Rogen is good too, especially in his scenes with Theron – the duo have electric chemistry – but whereas he’s playing a part he’s played before, and in similar fashion, she’s taking one of the most welcome risks of her career — and it pays off.
Levine, who has worked with Rogen several times now (their previous collaborations including “50/50” and “The Night Before”), does deserve props for helping the actor’s bearded, tracksuit wearing journalist become an unlikely romantic male lead – one that supersedes the appeal of Alexander Skarsgard (who plays the handsome Prime Minister of Canada), in a supporting part – who can believably bed Charlize Theron. No easy feat.
There’s some delicious characters in this, even outside of the main duo, and Levine has aptly cast some of SAG’s most gifted and entertaining actors in the roles – from O’Shea Jackson Jr (who I mistook as Ice Cube at first, not gonna lie), Odenkirk (hilarious as an actor turned current president), an unrecognisable Andy Serkis, the aforementioned Skarsgard, and June Diane Raphael, there’s not a crooked blunt among them.
Much of the effectiveness of “Long Shot” working as well as it does though can be attributed to the smart, brave but genuinely very funny and super sweet script by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah. Not afraid to oppose the typical gene rules of staying away from genuinely amusing gross-out humour, strong digs at real-life people and places, and scripts that aren’t littered with a curse word in every paragraph (so family audiences can buy tickets), they’ve crafted a movie for adults that knows what it is, is very good at what it is, and doesn’t even want to be that other thing.
“Long Shot” also far exceeds just the usual rom-com template, being an interesting and spot-on commentary of modern day politics. While all the major references come from the current climate in the USA, we can all draw similarities to our own mismatched governments, and cross our fingers that we end up with a Charlotte Field in power one day.
You’ll love, love, love this movie and want to see it again and again and again.
Blu-ray : Nice to hear a Dolby Atmos track really come alive – not unexpected, sure, but it’s rare that a high quality audio track can make a difference to a rom-com. Just beautiful. The flawless video transfer also deserves praise.
Extras-wise, there’s enough fun, albeit somewhat short extras on here -the making-of, running 30 minutes, is the hight – to hold fans over after the film.