Long Shot (2019)

Directed by Jonathan Levine

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Long Shot is a pretty wholesome modern, political rom com.  It’s the love story between the Secretary of State (Charlize Theron) and an idealistic, over-enthusiastic out of work journalist (Seth Rogen).  They meet by happenstance, as people do in rom coms, and because she once babysat him when they were teenagers they strike up a bit of a reunion.  As she is taken with his idealism and hatred for the same Steve Bannon-like figure she loathes, she asks that he join her team as a speechwriter, while she makes her bid for the White House on the back of an aspirational environment plan.

Like with so many rom coms they will meet, everything will be gravy, then there will be a falling out that has been telegraphed early in the film, things will hit rock bottom, then they will fly back into each other’s arms.  Along the way their highlighted character flaw will be corrected, showing that through each other they can better themselves.  In the end they emerge like a butterfly from a cocoon, better both individually and together.

As a politician she has to make compromises, no matter how painful.  It’s part of the job, to get anything done, signed or accomplished.  There are roadblocks and inept, greedy politicians and financiers who wield demands and blackmail.  For him, a punchy journalist with his own agenda, there is no room for compromise.  He knows what he wants (the same as do so many others), and he won’t stand for people who stand in the way or say it’s not possible.

She is moderation, and he is an extreme, though aspects of their personality might speak to the opposite.

Of course by the end she learns to stand up for herself and say ‘f*ck the system’ even as it might risk her very carefully-constructed political career, to which even he as a love interest is a threat.  And then he will understand that sometimes you need to look at things from a different perspective or at least consider that not everything you want can or will happen, at least not in such leaps and bounds.

It’s a rather humanizing story that works in part because it’s amusing and at times hilarious, but mostly because it’s just sort of charming.  The team here seems well aware of its characters and the people who play them.  Rogen isn’t just the schlubby guy here, as he has been in Knocked Up or any number of Judd Apatow films, and Theron is more than just the stoic public figure.  

Rogen’s assertiveness, for one, gives him a level of self-confidence that this type of character in most other films would lack.  And for Theron, her character is quickly humanized, allowed to embarrass herself and is given over to yearning in a way her character often wouldn’t be in another film.  They are both engaging, flawed, alternately hopeful and pessimistic characters, in short they are both well-rounded depictions of people.

There are entertaining supporting turns from other familiar faces as there always are in rom coms, they provide goofy comedy and then sudden insight into the situation at hand.  They always tend to lack self-importance and are there to embarrass themselves in order to better serve the protagonists’s self-image, before a dramatic point in the story reveals to the protagonist the surprising depths of their friend, who highlights a life lesson they learned long ago and which the protagonist only now comes to see.

The film also has a firm grasp on the current political times, at least the way a certain demographic and generation sees it.  It’s with it, in other words, a film that will be valuable years down the line even if only as a microcosm of the way things once were.

Up Next: The Front Runner (2018), Zombieland: Double Tap (2019), St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)

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