Movie Review – Long Shot (2019)
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
A “long shot” is something that is attempted that doesn’t have a good chance or hardly any chance of happening or succeeding. It can also be something that isn’t likely to be accurate. Here, the title refers to the relationship between the character played by Seth Rogen and the character played by Charlize Theron. The movie tackles it on two fronts. The relationship between them seems like it won’t work on a superficial level and on a substantial level. However, if you analyze both the superficial and substantial levels, it feels like the conflict here doesn’t live up to that title.
If you analyze it on a superficial level, it might seem like a long shot. Rogen is a cute guy, but he’s described as a schlub. He’s boorish and not attractive in the traditional sense. He’s no Zac Efron, but I don’t understand why that would matter in a political relationship. At one point, Washington, DC, was described as “Hollywood for ugly people.” No one expects our political leaders to be the best looking people on planet Earth or have looks worthy to be on the cover of glamour or fashion magazines. Yes, there have been attractive politicians here and there, but it’s not required that our political leaders be the sexiest people available.
What might be the case here is the perceived imbalance between Rogen’s character who is a schlub and Theron’s character who can only be described as gorgeous and a knockout. She’s a tall, beautiful blonde, so her partnering with someone like Rogen might be perceived as odd. I say might, but the reality is that Rogen has done a number of comedies and in a lot of them, if not most, he’s been partnered with a woman who can only be described as gorgeous. It started with his first major hit Knocked Up (2007) in which he was paired with Katherine Heigl, a tall, beautiful blonde. He followed it up with Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) in which he had Elizabeth Banks, another beautiful blonde. He followed that up with Observe and Report (2009) in which he had Anna Faris, yet another beautiful blonde.
Recently, he did Neighbors (2014) and its sequel with Rose Byrne who isn’t a blonde but she is a very beautiful brunette. This has been a pattern for Rogen for over a decade. He has paired himself with beautiful women, most of them blondes. Adam Sandler who hosted Saturday Night Live, the day after this film was released in theaters, commented on the fact that Sandler himself has made a career doing the exact same thing. Sandler is a bit of a schlub too whose films also partner him with some gorgeous girl whether it’s Drew Barrymore or Kate Beckinsale. This is also true of the romantic comedies in which Woody Allen placed himself. In Manhattan (1979), Allen had two beautiful blondes as his love interests, Mariel Hemingway and Meryl Streep.
Even if you look at sitcoms, schlubs have had beautiful female partners and spouses for decades. We’ve had Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners (1955). We’ve had Homer Simpson in The Simpsons (1989). We’ve had Phil Dunphy in Modern Family (2009). Therefore, it’s not a “long shot” for Rogen and Theron’s characters to hook up because we see it happen all the time in TV and films.
Rogen stars as Fred Flarsky, a writer and journalist who lives in Brooklyn. He’s a liberal, left-wing guy who angrily champions liberal, left-wing positions in articles for a newspaper. He’s also the typical, Seth Rogen character who smokes a lot of weed, does a lot of other drugs and masturbates regularly. His best friend is a very successful stockbroker named Lance, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Den of Thieves and Straight Outta Compton). Lance takes Fred to an elite party where they encounter the Secretary of State.
Theron co-stars as Charlotte Field, the aforementioned Secretary of State. She wants to run for president, but she needs the endorsement from the current president. At the same time, she’s trying to put together an initiative involving countries from all over the world to help with climate change. The initiative has to do with preserving the seas, trees and bees. She’s going to be giving various speeches in each country for dignitaries as well as giving a speech announcing her candidacy for president. She’s very dedicated to her job, very serious, making her a lonely and tired person outside doing work.
As a result, she needs to improve her image, particularly her sense of humor. She decides to hire Fred as a speechwriter to help with her humor. Fred therefore has to follow her from country to country, asking her personal questions and getting to know her. She then ends up falling in love with him and him with her. Charlotte’s political party is never identified but it’s assumed she’s a Democrat. Given what’s revealed about Lance’s character at the end, the bigger long shot would have been if Charlotte and Lance had fallen in love.
But, on a substantial level, Charlotte and Fred’s relationship is seen as a long shot because she has a powerful position, makes a lot of money and travels a lot. Charlotte says that men are intimidated by that, so it’s difficult for her to find someone who would fit that lifestyle. There is this idea floated that she could be with the Prime Minister of Canada, James Steward, played by Alexander Skarsgård (Big Little Lies and True Blood). He’s tall and handsome and not a schlub but he’s brushed off with a bad wig and an awkward laugh. The movie doesn’t address the real issues that would come from those two trying to be in a relationship like the long distance from both being rooted in two separate countries. Yes, they run into each other on business trips, but the logistics of an actual relationship aren’t addressed. Yet, the idea that she wouldn’t have encountered a diplomat or politician in her travels that wouldn’t have tickled her fancy seems unlikely as well.
June Diane Raphael (Grace and Frankie and The Disaster Artist) plays Maggie Milkin, the chief of staff for Charlotte. She’s the most cynical. She dismisses Fred thinking that he isn’t compatible for Charlotte. Presumably, she dismisses him for superficial reasons that he’s too uncouth and unrefined, not suited literally for the black-tie lifestyle of the Secretary of Sate, or perhaps that he’s too idealogical. It’s not all together clear. She could just think he’s a baffoon, given some literal pratfalls that he has during their initial meeting.
A pivot point comes when something that Fred did in private is threatened to be released to the public. The resolution involves keeping his and Charlotte’s relationship a secret at least long enough so that Fred’s image can be reformed. He is adamantly opposed to either keeping their relationship a secret or having to reform his image. It’s understandable why keeping it all secret isn’t fair, but his obstinance to changing his image is ridiculous. If one is going to the White House, there are things you don’t do, and if you’re going to be the president or the president’s spouse, there are other things you don’t do. Doing drugs for example isn’t something you do as president. The fact that he would be so obstinate about that is nonsensical, which would be fine if his obstinance were played for laughs, but instead it’s meant to be a serious moment.
As the trailer hinted and as the film itself references, this movie is basically a rip-off of Pretty Woman (1990). Hearing the film replay one of the signature songs from that film, “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette, only underscores how this movie is mostly about nostalgia than it is about creating its own signature song or any original moments for itself. The idea of international jet-setting presents plenty of opportunities, but the film, directed by Jonathan Levine and co-written by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah, only utilizes that international hop-scotching premise a couple of times.
One time involves the clothing in Sweden, which is quite funny. The other time is an attack in Argentina. Otherwise, great uses of the various locations aren’t there. It’s unlikely that the production went to all those countries and filmed on location. There are some fairly good jokes, but I wasn’t laughing that much. The Swedish clothes joke is the only one that made me laugh out loud. Otherwise, I wasn’t taken with much of it.
Rated R for strong sexual content, language and drug use.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 5 mins.