Long Shot (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): A sweet and smart political romantic comedy

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“Long Shot” is a sweet and smart political romantic comedy which does have some nice moments for good laughs. Although it could be sharper and wittier in some aspects, it is mostly entertaining thanks to the comic chemistry between its two engaging lead performers, and I came to overlook its several weak points to some degree during my viewing.

At the beginning, we are introduced to Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), an idealistic New York City journalist who gets himself involved with a bunch of hardcore right-wing guys for his latest article to be published. While he manages to accomplish his task in the end, he is notified later that his online newspaper company has been sold to a big media corporation owned by Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis), and, after arguing with his boss, he promptly quits even though he knows well how hard it is for a journalist to get employed again these days.

At least, Fred gets some consolation from his best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), who subsequently takes him to a charity fundraising event where a certain famous R&B vocal group is going to perform. While enjoying himself a bit, Fred happens to spot Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), and he suddenly comes to realize that this woman, who is currently the US Secretary of State, was once his babysitter. Their following reunion is rather awkward to say the least, and then we get a silly slapstick moment which instantly goes viral on the Internet to his humiliation.

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After coming to learn more about Fred’s journalist career, Charlotte decides to choose him as her speech writer because she believes that he is talented enough to write a speech for what may be the most important moment in her political career. President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk), who was a popular TV actor before becoming the President of the United States two years ago, decides not to seek re-election as he hopes to resume his acting career in movies, and he personally promises to Charlotte that he will fully endorse her as his successor. While excited by the possibility of becoming the first female president in the American history, Charlotte also knows well that she must be careful in every step she takes in public, and she certainly feels pressured a lot as she must get the agreement from many political leaders around the world for announcing her global initiative on environment protection.

While initially not so eager to take the job offer from Charlotte because he does not want any compromise, Fred eventually agrees to work for her, and the movie serves us a series of comic moments as showing us how awkward he looks in his new position. Shabby and shaggy in his casual appearance, he certainly looks like an oddball as surrounded by Charlotte and many other posh and slick political figures including James Steward (Alexander Skarsgård), the Prime Minster of Canada who looks far more suitable to be around Charlotte compared to Fred.

While they do not click much well with each other at first, Charlotte and Fred come to respect and like each other as working more with each other, and the old feeling between them is gradually developed as they move together around a number of different spots around the world. After going through one sudden dramatic moment together, they let themselves swept by their mutual feeling, and it does not take much time for her assistants to notice how close Fred and Charlotte become to each other.

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Of course, Charlotte decides that her relationship with Fred should be kept hidden for a while, and Fred has no problem with that, but, not so surprisingly, things become quite complicated later in the story. As Charlotte tries to push the aforementioned global initiative as hard as she can, she inevitably finds herself in a conflict with President Chambers and Wembley, and Wembley, who is not so pleased with that initiative for good reasons, is quite willing to do anything for stopping her.

What follows next is predictable to the core, but the screenplay by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah keeps things rolling, and director Jonathan Levin, who previously directed “50/50” (2011) and “Warm Bodies” (2013), did a competent job of balancing the story and characters well between humor and sincerity. Although its running time is a little too long in my humble opinion, the movie seldom loses its wit and spirit at least, and that is the main reason why its clichéd finale works.

Above all, the movie depends a lot on the star power of its two lead performers, and it is constantly fun to watch how they push and pull each other throughout the film. While Seth Rogen mostly sticks to a low-key mode except during a few raunchy moments including the one reminiscent of that infamous scene of “There’s Something About Mary” (1997), Charlize Theron, who can be not only quite tough as shown in “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) and “Atomic Blonde” (2017) but also very funny as shown in “Young Adult” (2011) and “Tully” (2018), deftly handles several juicy comic moments, and she and Rogen are supported well by a number of notable supporting performers including O’Shea Jackson Jr., June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgård, and Andy Serkis, who is almost unrecognizable in his deplorable appearance.

In conclusion, “Long Shot” is a little disappointing for aiming rather low, but it works as much as intended, and I was entertained enough by Theron and Rogen’s delightful comic interactions on the screen. Sure, the movie often looks too naïve considering the current political circumstance in US, but it is a lightweight comedy enjoyable enough for recommendation, and I will not grumble about its weak points for now.

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