Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.
In an era dominated by big-budget franchises and low-budget prestige pictures, a mid-range budget big screen romantic comedy has become a rare sight. Even big stars aren’t necessarily enough to sell one. It needs a hook, something beyond its central romantic plot to grab moviegoers’ attention and bring them into the theater. Crazy Rich Asians, last year’s big romantic comedy, had representation. This year’s Long Shot doesn’t necessarily have that, but it does have the advantage of being a satire of modern politics, something that is probably at the forefront of more people’s minds today than it has been in decades.
Long Shot stars Charlize Theron as Charlotte Field, the U.S. Secretary of State who plans to use her ambitious save-the-environment platform to springboard herself into the role of the country’s first female President. The focus groups report that she scores high in almost every category, but can use some help with her hideous wave and her perceived lack of a sense of humor and fun. Enter Brooklyn journalist Fred Flarsky, who may not be able to help her with that awful wave, but may be able to punch up her speeches with some jokes.
Field and Flarsky also have a history as she used to babysit him while she was in high school, so he knows her better than others, which could be an advantage when writing her speeches. As they travel around the world together and continue to get to know each other better, a relationship begins to develop. This becomes a problem, because the bushy-bearded windbreaker and hat wearing Flarsky is not exactly what the pundits believe to be the ideal person they want standing next to a presidential candidate. Added to that is the complication that in order to reach her goal of becoming President, Field must make certain concessions along the way that slowly whittle away at her plan for the environment—a plan that was the main reason Flarsky agreed to join her team in the first place.
Long Shot is a not-so-thinly veiled satire of the current political climate in the U.S. and it is clear which point of view it is starting from when the movie opens. Bob Odenkirk plays the current president, an actor whose main qualification for his position seems to be that he once played the President of the United States on television. And now he has decided not to run for a second term, so that he can transition from television to film, but not before increasing his portfolio. He does so by teaming up with a media mogul played by Andy Serkis, an easy-to-despise character who is clearly a blending together of Steve Bannon and Roger Ailes. This movie also uses Fox News like a punching bag.
But while Long Shot wears its Democratic heart on its sleeve early in the movie, it eventually reaches for a message about the sides coming together. At one point, one of its leads learns that someone they have been friends with for years considers themselves not just to be a Republican, but a Christian Republican (“G.O.P. and the G.O.D.”). At another point, when someone is distinguishing between the left and the right, another character clarifies “so, all Americans.” Ultimately, through Secretary Field’s journey, the movie reminds us that when our country was young we had ideals, goals, and dreams, but as we have grown older, we have found ourselves compromising our vision and somehow, some way, we need to find a way to bring back the innocent let’s-make-this-world-a-better-place aspirations of our youth.
Beyond the political satire, the movie also works well as a romantic comedy. Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen may not seem like a typical pairing for a movie like this, but they have great chemistry together. Rogen is his usual self, straddling the line between hilarious and overkill, while Theron showcases a talent for comedy that we do not get to see from her enough. One of the movie’s many laugh-out-loud moments comes when she delivers an all-time great spit take and another comes when she has to solve an international crisis while high on Molly. The pair play well off each other and are always believable in their interactions with each other.
Long Shot is not subtle, either in its politics or in its comedy, but that is part of what makes it fun. It also comes with a worthy message, reminding us that sometimes saving the world does not have anything to do with superheroes in capes, but normal everyday humans making a stand and doing what they know is right. And it does so while giving us a central love story that we can root for with plenty of laughs along the way.
Long Shot opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16, the AMC Kent Station 14, the Century Federal Way, and Regal’s Stadium Landing 14 in Renton.