Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Written by: Dan Sterling, Liz Hannah
Starring: Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgård
Runtime: 115 min
Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is a gifted and free-spirited journalist with an affinity for trouble. Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is one of the most influential women in the world. Smart, sophisticated, and accomplished, she's a powerhouse diplomat with a talent for... well, mostly everything. The two have nothing in common, except that she was his babysitter and childhood crush. When Fred unexpectedly reconnects with Charlotte, he charms her with his self-deprecating humor and his memories of her youthful idealism.
As she prepares to make a run for the Presidency, Charlotte impulsively hires Fred as her speechwriter, much to the dismay of her trusted advisors. A fish out of water on Charlotte's elite team, Fred is unprepared for her glamorous lifestyle in the limelight. Sparks fly as their unmistakable chemistry leads to a round-the-world romance and a series of unexpected and dangerous incidents.
Who would have thought that the first (positive) surprise of the year would be a movie starring Seth Rogen in a romantic-comedy?! This genre has been having trouble for the past few years (only a handful of films are worthy of high praise), but Long Shot's amazing cast called my attention at the beginning of 2019 when I was organizing my watchlist of the year. I genuinely love Rogen type of humor, and Charlize Theron is one of the best actresses of the 21st century. Add three more terrific actors like Bob Odenkirk (President Chambers), O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Lance), and an unrecognizable Andy Serkis (Parker Wembley), and you have yourself a clear path to success.
So, what's the missing key ingredient? A well-written and compelling story, which is the number one problem with rom-coms of today. Most of these movies go straight to streaming services since they're the easiest ones to produce. Just gather a reasonably decent cast, put together a cliche narrative about how two people with nothing in common end up together through the most unlikely and dumb plot devices, and you have a low-budget “success”. Long Shot‘s premise follows a variation of that concept and it still carries the trademark conventionality, but it's the chemistry of its leads, the hilarious comedy and the beautifully-written screenplay that makes this one stand out.
The dialogues don't feel forced, a large portion of the jokes land, and the best compliment I can give to this film: it took itself seriously, and it worked seamlessly. There’s a heartfelt message to transmit to the viewers, and it’s delivered in the most realistic possible way. The romance doesn’t seem far-fetched or born out of nowhere. Instead, it has a wonderful arc, filled with real-life relationship moral dilemmas and difficult decisions. Everything that any character says either makes sense or makes you laugh.
The cast is brilliant as expected. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron‘s chemistry is palpable, and it’s one of the reasons why the romance part of the movie works. They clearly had much fun on-set, and that’s visible on the big screen. Rogen provides most of the laughs, but he also proves that he can be dramatic if necessary. Theron is just impeccable. She simply can’t act a single line of her script in a way that’s not perfect, whether it’s a romantic scene or a comedy bit. Her range is on display throughout the entire runtime, and Jonathan Levine should be extremely grateful as a director to have such an outstanding actress to work with.
In addition to all of this, there’s one thing I never expected to be praising right now: the makeup department. Before the film, I knew that Andy Serkis was on the cast, but I completely forgot what his role was. Without an ounce of exaggeration, I truly believe that it’s almost impossible to recognize him as Wembley if you don’t know beforehand that he participates in the movie. When I re-checked the cast members, I remembered that he had a role indeed, and I was almost as surprised by the discovery as I was with how much I enjoyed this film. O’Shea Jackson Jr. also delivers a hilarious performance while Bob Odenkirk doesn’t really have much screentime to shine.
This is one of those movies that you can’t precisely point out obvious flaws. A flawless film doesn’t mean it’s a perfect 10/10 movie. It just means you really don’t have any major issues with it. If every single aspect of a film is just “good”, then the movie is “good”, not “incredible” or “amazing”. That is how I view Long Shot. It’s an extremely entertaining rom-com, undeniably one of the best I’ve seen these past few years. Even though the main concept follows the genre’s traditional storylines, its well-written screenplay, hilarious comedy bits, and outstanding protagonists make a surprisingly serious story remarkably entertaining.
It’s a fast-paced 2-hour runtime that I recommend to anyone who just wants to have a good time at the movie theater.