Starring Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgard
Written by Dan Sterling, Liz Hannah
Story by Dan Sterling
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Produced by Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver, Beth Kono, Charlize Theron
Cinematography by Yves Belanger
Edited by Melissa Bretherton, Evan Henke
Music by Marco Beltrami, Miles Hankins
“Long Shot,” a politically-edged and somewhat crudely-edged romantic comedy about a journalist, played by Seth Rogen, who re-kindles his love for his childhood love—who just happens to be the secretary of state who is running for president, played by Charlize Theron—is indeed funny, and makes some sharp, insightful points about politics, government, insane politicians, the inherent ridiculousness of much of the political bureaucracy and overall political system in general and, yes, love, succeeds in the end, but the film is hampered somewhat by just a few widely-low-brow scenes that easily could have been re-written and re-shot to make the movie even better.
The exact substance of those notable scenes won’t be revealed here, but it’s interesting to note how several over-the-top scenes could have easily been re-worked to avoid the in-your-face, purely-shock-value crudeness that interrupts the movie’s overall flow. Yes, the scenes in question do tie in directly to the plot, and are not gratuitous, and do make a point on a certain level, but, again, they could have been re-written to avoid the abruptness and crudity that the scenes bring. It’s refinement, and somewhere in the scriptwriting process, the writers, Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah, lost track of their overall style and original intent and they let a few scenes remain in the movie that do bring a certain level of un-evenness, shakiness and up-and-down momentum. Again, just a few quick edits to the script, a few re-writes of a few scenes, and some directing ingenuity with a few scenes, and “Long Shot” would have been a much better movie. It’s notable that Rogen and Theron are listed as producers on the movie—and they should have known better with some of these scenes.
Nevertheless, “Long Shot” does provide some good, needed laughs and pointed, smart, insightful satire at the expense of the current political system, processes, bureaucracy, leaders, bureaucrats, aides, and campaigns, among other political subjects. And that’s always needed. The movies takes numerous jabs at the ridiculousness of much of the above-noted political subjects by exposing the inherent contradictions, lies, hypocrisy, corruption, public relations lies, cover-ups and back-room dirty deals that occupy too much of the political and governmental system. And that’s always needed. Politicians, political aides, government officials, businessmen and political backers and donors are consistently shown to be two-faced, lying, scheming, opportunistic, apathetic snakes, sharks, dogs and, generally, not much more than walking and talking morons and idiots in “Long Shot.” And that’s always needed. So amid the comedy, laughs, crudity and pratfalls and slapstick, there is a continual, underlying satirical comment on government and politics, and, again, that’s always needed. So the consistent satire does help to boost the film.
There is a love story, too, and that’s generally handled with some care and kindness. Amid the political shenanigans, campaigning, double-dealing and back-stabbing, Rogen’s Fred Flarsky is, more than anything, all-out in love with Theron’s beautiful, sexy, slinky and smart Charlotte Field. It helps that Flarsky and Field were childhood friends, and there is an established base of comfort and back-story with the characters, so when Flarksy appears somewhat out of nowhere at a reception and gets back in touch with Field, it’s not too out-of-the-blue. They recognize each other, and rekindle their childhood friendship at first, and soon that friendship turns into a love affair, and that’s not spoiling anything. It’s what happens after Flarsky and Field start their love affair that sets most of the movie’s plot into action, and that propels the film forward. Flarsky, a journalist, is hired by Field as a speechwriter on her presidential campaign, as Field thinks that Flarsky’s way with words, journalistic qualities and straight-talking nature could provide a needed spark to her campaign.
Naturally, there are aides to Field who stupidly look only at surface and style appearances and are opposed to Field having a relationship with Flarsky—to the point of even trying to derail the relationship, talk Field out of going out with Flarsky and even suggesting some things that, again, are so far out of line they could have easily been re-written, too, to make the movie better. And there are opposition morons who try to dig up dirt on Flarsky, try to make him look bad and try to bring down Field by dragging down Flarsky—while also providing fodder for satire on the entire level of dirty dealings that unfortunately occupy too much of politics, government and the campaign system.
So while Field tries to run for president, and while Field and Flarsky try to have an adult love affair amid the presidential campaign, they must deal with a dirty-dealing president, skeptical aides, those opposition workers, and other corrupt snakes and sharks who would do anything to derail Field’s campaign and bring down she and Flarsky. As the problems and conflicts build, they threaten to wreck Field’s presidential campaign, and they threaten to wreck the love affair, and thus Field and Flarsky must work to keep the campaign and, to their credit, their love affair, on track and successful.
“Long Shot” provides an interesting concept of mixing government and politics and love affairs, and the story and movie generally work, thanks mostly to the able work of the lead actors and a generally well-paced and well-edited direction from Jonathan Levine. Rogen and Theron are consistently funny, and they make their relationship work on screen and in the story. Simply—and importantly—put, Flarksy and Field fall in love, and they do love each other. Rogen and Theron project a real, workable chemistry in the movie, that’s heartening. Rogen has perfected his trademark portrayal of the direct, in-your-face, loud-talking, rebellious, questioning, stoner, outcast—and funny—rogue and renegade, and he brings that portrayal in all its familiar glory to “Long Shot.” In the movie, Rogen’s not afraid to take some chances, his character, Fred, is not afraid to say some things quite directly, and Fred is are not afraid to blatantly expose apparent deceptions, falsehoods, lies and just-plain stupidity of all of the slimy, creepy types of tend to attach themselves to politicians and campaigns. He constantly breaks down the wall of substance-only, appearance-only, smile-and-shake-hands-and-kiss-the-baby conventions, and the people who strive to follow those conventions, in politics, government and on campaigns, and some great moments occur when Flarsky is taking down these morons and exposing them for who they really are. Again, that’s always needed. And Field realizes that this is exactly what she, her campaign—and the world—needs. She welcomes Flarsky’s abruptness—and his honesty—in their relationship and on the campaign.
However, more than making consistent political points, “Long Shot” is, in the end, a love story, and the movie establishes some important messages, themes, morals and points about love between two people. However, making that point is, once analyzed, somewhat un-even, in a way, too. By having the title be “Long Shot” and by suggesting, somewhat questionably, throughout the story that it would be a long shot for someone like Flarsky to fall in love with someone like Field, the movie contradicts itself in a weird way. Because, at the same time, the movie is saying that it’s NOT questionable or unlikely or unusual or strange for someone like Flarsky to fall in love with someone like Field. So perhaps the moviemakers are saying that two seemingly—and seemingly is a key word—different people are not actually different, are not unlikely to fall in love, are not really living in different worlds, and that it’s really NOT a long shot for a Flarsky and a Field to fall in love and be happy with each other. Because you know what? The latter suggestion is actually reality in this big, wide world—it’s not a long shot for different people to hook up and fall in love. Not a long shot at all. This world of about 7 billion people is not actually full of ridiculously stereotyped beautiful, model-like, movie-star people existing on one level, and everyone else existing on another level. This world is not full of stereotypically beautiful people connecting only with other stereotypically beautiful people. That’s just simply not the case. This world is full of all types of people connecting with, going out with, being with, sleeping with, having affairs with, marrying and falling in love with all types of other people. That is the reality of this world.
And that’s the main, over-riding point that “Long Shot” is making: the world, and reality, is full of all types of people falling in love with all types of other people. That happens every day, in every corner of the world. Love is beyond looks and beauty and style and substance and position and standing and whether you’re a high-ranking politician or a speechwriter or who knows what you are in this world. Love is the pure, real, honest, caring and king and lasting connection between two people—and it doesn’t matter a damn who you are, what you do or what position you have—including whether you’re the secretary of state who’s running for president and a journalist and speechwriter. It just doesn’t matter. Because what matters, more than anything else, is the inherent, real connection that exists between two people. That’s love—the connection of the heart, mind, soul and emotions of two people.
So perhaps, then, one could look at “Long Shot” and say that the movie is saying that people should not be looking at two people who appear to be different and immediately suggesting that their relationship would be a long shot. Instead, the movie states, people should look at two people who appear to be different and encourage them, help them, support them, respect them—and realize that they are not actually a long shot. No one should actually use that term—long shot—and instead people should just accept the facts and reality—and positivity—when two people connect, no matter their apparent differences. In the end, people are people, and if they are attracted to each other, they connect and they fall in love—well, there’s nothing really wrong with that if it’s real, honest, true and from the heart.
“Long Shot” is uneven, a bit crude, the movie richochets here and there, it has its ups and downs, and the movie isn’t up there with such political satire or political-oriented classics as, say, “Being There” or “All the President’s Men,” but the movie somehow does work, and “Long Shot” does recall some similar funny political satire movies such as “Dave” and “The American President,” among others.
And, amid the comedy and crudity and political satire, those over-riding, basic messages and morals about love and relationships between people end up being the focal point—the talking point, if you will, to borrow a horrendous, terrible current political jargon term and to poke fun at that term—and love and relationships end up being the real point, moral, theme and message of “Long Shot,” and that should be celebrated. The relationship between Flarsky and Field somewhat brings to mind the kooky relationship in another, and, yes, much better, slapstick romantic comedy, Peter Bogdanovich’s “What’s Up, Doc?” from 1972. In that film, Ryan O’Neal’s stuffy, straight-edged academic fell in love with someone who also appeared—appeared is a key word–to be a long shot, Barbra Streisand’s kooky, beatnik, sexy and wild, rebellious drifter, Judy Maxwell. At the very end of that classic film, O’Neal’s Howard Bannister apologizes to Maxwell for some things he said and for what things occurred in the movie, and Howard tells Judy that he loves her. Streisand’s Judy looks straight at Howard and jokingly responds, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” beautifully satirizing and making fun of one of Erich Segal’s more memorable—and often chastised–lines from 1970’s “Love Story,” which also starred O’Neal. Howard Bannister looks straight at Judy Maxwell, realizes that he is most definitely in love with her, and says something like, “That’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard.” And Bannister and Maxwell end up with each other, in love, and Porky Pig suddenly appears and says, “That’s all, folks!”
In “Long Shot,” Fred Flarsky and Charlotte Field have their own end-scene moment in the sun, they realize that they love each other, and they, too, end up happy and in love. What more is there to say? Except, “That’s all, folks!”