The nice thing about reviewing a romantic comedy is there’s no way I can spoil the ending.
If you are genuinely shocked to learn that blindingly gorgeous Secretary of State/presidential hopeful Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) and sloppy, underachieving Brooklyn muckraker Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) find true love by the conclusion of Long Shot—well, you had to lose your innocence sometime, pal. I’m just sorry it had to be like this.
Still, Long Shot isn’t exactly what you’d expect—at the very least, it does an end run around the ickier elements of the schlub-lands-the-hottie template. Flarsky may be the movie’s focal point, but Field’s decisions drive the story, so it’s less “boy meets/loses/gets girl” than “girl falls for boy against her better judgment and tries to wedge him into her complicated life.”
Long Shot begins with Flarsky, fresh from the successful infiltration of a neo-Nazi den, quitting his job in an absurdly principled huff after an evil media conglomerate gobbles up his publication; to cheer him up, his buddy Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr., emitting relentlessly aggro positivity) takes him to a benefit gala that, for some reason, the secretary of state is also attending. (Dammit, disbelief, will you suspend already?) Field, it turns out, was once Flarsky’s babysitter and first crush. To the dismay of her supercilious handlers, she hires Flarsky to punch up her speeches during a global jaunt to nail down an ambitious environmental accord. He excels, of course, because he understands the real her or whatever, and soon her speeches aren’t all he’s punching up, if you know what I mean.
Along the way there are pratfalls, face plants, funny outfits, an inopportune teen boner, a white supremacist named Aryan Grande, and a bona fide cum shot. All this, I need hardly say, is the good stuff. But when I tell you that Long Shot’s political milieu is a colossally dimwitted creation, please understand that I mean even for a romcom—even for a romcom where Charlize Theron is the secretary of state and falls in love with Seth Rogen. The movie’s world is neither make-believe nor realistic enough. One extended scene badgers us into agreeing that Republicans are people too, while the bumbling baddies—white nationalists, Bob Odenkirk’s TV-star-turned president, a handsy Murdochian mogul played by Andy Serkis (who somehow seems digitally enhanced even when he isn’t CGI)—keep reminding us of their less easily foiled real-world counterparts.
Rogen updates his stunted adolescent persona a smidge here, integrating an unwillingness to compromise his ideals that honestly makes him seem just as immature as the cheap windbreaker he’s zipped into as snugly as a plump, fuzzy sausage. (He’s like Glenn Greenwald with a neckbeard and a weed dealer.) But Theron is the movie’s heart. She’s game for even the crassest gags, yet she establishes Field as a three-dimensional human, a woman who knows how to get what she wants, and—once that inexplicably includes Flarsky—adjusts her m.o., not smoothly but effectively.
In the end, it’s not only true love but political candor that conquers all in Long Shot, and America lives as happily ever after as the new first couple, who appear to have redefined the nation’s gender roles forever. Not only can Field have it all, but so can we. It’s a surprisingly sweet conclusion, yet seeing that fantasy play out while living in the ugly actuality of 2019, where the misogynists and power brokers are more than standing their ground, is like watching a standard romantic comedy while you’re in the middle of a messy divorce.
Sometimes a happy ending can feel just plain cruel.
Director: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael
Theater: Area theaters, now playing