Pairing schlubby, messy men with women who are out of their league in regards to looks if not always intelligence is not a new concept or novel idea, but it is something that has been done to the point that, to do it again without any sense of awareness would in and of itself feel like a parody. This is why Long Shot immediately placing this same situation in the realm of political campaigning-where outward appearance and perception is critical-is what makes re-visiting this trope both funny and worthwhile. Rogen, who rarely seems to work from a concept or screenplay where he's not involved in some capacity has thrown himself at the mercy of screenwriters Dan Sterling (The Office, The Interview) and Liz Hannah (The Post) as well as frequent collaborator, director Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Night Before). This R-rated romantic comedy not only deals with your typical conundrums of opposites attracting, falling in love, and making it work in the face of what societal expectations tell our characters they should ascend or not ascend to, but it also gets into the weeds when it comes to our current political climate and is able to round out both of these objects of very strong affections with the idea that one shouldn't compromise their desires or feelings towards a topic or person just because some people may not approve of them. It's been nearly fifteen years since movie-going audiences were introduced to Rogen's disoriented stoner/slacker of a caricature and in that time Rogen has managed to somehow both mature yet remain the same. There is a natural level of humor Rogen brings to his projects that is gleaned simply from the actor laughing at a joke either he or another character has made. Whether Rogen is working with the likes of Judd Apatow, someone like Levine, or writing and directing with creative partner Evan Goldberg each pairing seems to always find a way to carefully balance the vulgarity and gross out gags that are inevitable with a sweetness and sincerity in story that reassures the audience there is more here than dick and drug jokes.

Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) and long-time friend, Lance (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) spend a day goofing around after Fred quits his job.
© 2019 Summit Entertainment.
It is almost to Rogen's benefit that there is some space between the source material and what he brings to the final product as his goofily-named Fred Flarsky is more responsible than Rogen's typical, aforementioned caricature as Fred not only has a job, but is good at and passionate about his job. This passion and sense of self inevitably lend the romance in this romantic comedy a credibility that not only makes it feel possible, but earned; one that is more substantial than a fleeting infatuation or an only option/last resort situation, but the kind of love that feels classic in its intentions, but modern in its approach-much like the movie itself. Don't get me wrong, I love King of Queens as much as the next person and could watch re-runs any day of the week, but I wouldn't be mad if Flarsky & Field had their own sitcom either a la King of Queens meets The West Wing.

Ironically enough, we are introduced to Rogen's Flarsky as he is infiltrating a gathering of white supremacists and while most people who go see and spend money on a Seth Rogen movie are aware of the facts the guy is both Canadian and Jewish this is only afforded more comedic value by Rogen's inability to commit to the actions and proclamations that are being made in this meeting where he is acting as an investigative journalist. After miraculously escaping this assignment, Flarsky learns from his editor (the always reliable Randall Park) that his renegade online publication has been bought by a rich media tycoon who uses his influence to seemingly persuade the culture to think as he wants them to in what is very clearly a jab at Roger Ailes and the Fox news network. In refusing to work for this man, Flarsky defiantly quits his job and immediately call on longtime friend, Lance (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), to help keep him out of a funk after realizing he has no income. Jackson, who is clearly some kind of successful wall street trader or broker of some sort is conveniently able to leave work at a moments notice and grant his pal a day full of fun and leisurely activities that end on a party that might also be a perk of Lance's job that is an elite dinner of some sort, sure, but they're there only to see Boyz II Men perform. It is as these friends are enjoying the harmonies of the dynamic trio that is Nate, Shawn, and Wanya that Flarsky realizes his former babysitter and the current Secretary of State for the United States, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), is also present at the event.

Flarsky always had a crush on Field as a young boy even working up the courage to make a move at one point, but the two very clearly haven't seen one another in many years and Lance naturally can't help but to think of the timing of this reunion as something akin to fate. Surprising to Flarsky, but no one who's seen a rom-com before, Field recognizes Flarsky and the two re-connect, she quickly coming to realize the situation her old friend was in as she too is not a fan that aforementioned media mogul, Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis), who she has had to avoid on multiple occasions. In light of these revelations and the rekindling of their knowledge that the other exists as well as taking into consideration that the current sitting President (a hilarious Bob Odenkirk) will be endorsing Field for the next Presidential run, Field is in desperate need of a speech writer and who better to write for her than someone who knew her as a young child and just so happens to also be a funny, effective journalist. Flarsky is promptly recruited by Field's supportive, but merciless team of campaign managers featuring June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel as the four of them then essentially go on a world tour to ramp up support from ally countries for an environment plan she is hoping to stake her campaign on with deeper feelings naturally developing along the way.   

Through an unsuspected re-connection Fred becomes a speech writer for Presidential front-runner Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) in Long Shot.
© 2019 Summit Entertainment.
And so, while, yes, the beats of this romantic comedy may be recognizable and well-worn what makes Long Shot work beyond the funny and genuine chemistry between Rogen and Theron is that Sterling and Hannah place events typically depicted through New York lofts, ad agencies, and/or magazine offices in the environment of politics-a world where not only is there hardly any time for relationships, but a public arena where every detail of a person’s life is scrutinized-especially the seeming and or un-seeming compatibility of their significant other. In adapting the rom-com tropes for this environment, the screenwriters are able to play with not just expectations, but the dynamic between the two people and the types of beats these kinds of movies typically follow. Long Shot goes so far as to even have the Lance character call the premise out for being Pretty Woman with the genders reversed. Whereas in your average romantic comedy we might have what is referred to as a "meet cute" the reunion of these two, seemingly star-crossed lovers takes place at the previously mentioned dinner party with Boyz II Men where, shortly after serving as a blast from the Secretary of State's past, Flarsky flails himself down a flight of stairs-once again, miraculously surviving and only reminding everyone in the room that not only is he under dressed, but that he's a klutz. I guess this could be considered cute, but it is the first of many public missteps Flarsky takes that would otherwise be considered detrimental to Fields campaign and the greater good her election is trying to pursue. Further, the film goes on to not necessarily "make over" Rogen's character, but more to simply refine his look on certain occasions without re-defining his personality.

As it is, Flarsky's personality is key this relationship working as he has a very strict code of ethics that he upholds himself to thus the reason he won't allow himself to work for someone like Wembley. Even when he's down on his luck with no work and despite the fact he more or less already loves Theron's character he still questions the intent of Field and if working for her and championing the change she wants would align with his beliefs. There's something to be said for this confidence in one's own values-especially when they're filled with more honor than hate-and in any other rom-com this role would go to the pure, assured female lead who would have to lend her confidence to the man she's fallen for in order to show him how to achieve something more public-facing he's been dealing with-most likely have to do with his career. In Long Shot, Theron is beyond intelligent, beyond beautiful, but also completely in the public eye. It is her career that matters, her persona that is more fragile, and her life that is arguably more important at least in terms of the change being effected by her existence. And so, as much as Field is confident in her ability to do her job and win her election, Flarsky serves this role of reminding Field why she does this job in the first place, what she's always stood for, and how the whole "remaining true to yourself" deal really works best when you feel you have to play the game to get ahead. In essence, these are his grand romantic gestures, this is his way of singing through the stadium PA system and dancing in the bleachers. To the movies credit as well is the fact it doesn't reduce Field to a stressed-out, prude of a control freak who loses sight of her real drive only to replace it with power. No, Theron's Field is a motivated woman who seems to know what she wants in every facet of her life except for her love life; she is the celebrity who finds love in the unsuspecting average joe and this is the closest parallel you'll ever be able to draw between Rogen and Hugh Grant. It also doesn't hurt that Theron is genuinely funny in the role absolutely demolishing every stereotype a woman in her position is expected to succumb to while simply acknowledging those that she does and going with it. Long Shot, as a piece of filmmaking, isn't necessarily an accomplishment in terms of craft, but it is a triumph in terms of blending multiple ideas together and streamlining them into both an enlightening and entertaining piece of storytelling...and that's the kind of marriage you can bet will leave a lasting impression.


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