Long Shot (Jonathan Levine, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
A charming, if overlong, romantic comedy about love, sex and politics, director Jonathan Levine’s Long Shot gives us the unlikely pairing (and coupling) of stars Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen and, surprisingly, it works. Then again, it’s not as if such mismatches have never been attempted at the movies before, and usually of this kind (i.e., she’s out of his league, yet likes him anyway), but there is a twist here, at least, since Theron is the older one. It’s more the way the actors seem such physical and character opposites that begs the question of how it (or they) will all come together, but such doubts are set aside by the second act, and what remains is a frequently delightful, if imperfect, wise-cracking movie that is also deeply idealistic about the healing power of good (progressive) leadership.
Theron (Atomic Blonde) plays Charlotte Field, the U.S. Secretary of State under Bob Odenkirk’s vacuous President Chambers. When he, a former television star, decides to return to his old profession rather than seek a second term, she jumps in the race. Unfortunately, though brilliant, she can be awkward and stiff in public settings, so her advisors convince her to hire a hip, progressive journalist as her speechwriter. Enter Rogen (The Night Before) as Fred Flarsky, who not only can write, but is also the boy (now man) whom Charlotte used to babysit. He’s always had a thing for her, and she’s always liked him, too (if not quite in the same way). But his politics fit hers, and since he’s out of a job, she takes him on. Soon, they are traveling the globe, renewing their acquaintance and kindling a new – possibly more sizzling – one.
The jokes are witty, the situations entertaining, the sex raunchy and the romance believable (and sweet). Beyond Odenkirk (the lead on AMC’s Better Call Saul), the large supporting cast includes O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ingrid Goes West), Andy Serkis (Black Panther), Ravi Patel (Meet the Patels) and June Diane Raphael (Ass Backwards), among many others. Unfortunately, though there are a lot of liberal political leanings on display, the script casts the talented Jackson and Patel as not much more than colorful sidekicks (or, more accurately, sidekicks of color), even while making frequent jokes about white privilege, simultaneously self-aware and not. And, despite the charisma of all involved, two hours is a long runtime for a comedy, dragging towards the end. Still, even if a good time is not had by all for all the time, it’s had often enough, and the final credits (almost) make up for any earlier failings. Theron and Rogen, at least, have my vote.