Movie Review: “Long Shot” – Fifty Shades of Yay!

Written by Jeremiah Greville May 17, 2019

Oh look, another Seth Rogan comedy where a schlubby guy wins the heart of someone who looks like a Hollywood actress. This won’t be weird or grating at all…


What’s that? It’s actually kind of sweet and charming? You’re telling me that it doesn’t suck, and that the characters actually sort of make sense and win you over? Wow.

I mean, I don’t believe you. It sounds like a Long Shot (ba dum tss!), but please—tell me more.

Long Shot stars Charlize Theron as presidential candidate Charlotte Field, and Seth Rogan as Fred Flarsky, a journalist hired to work as a speechwriter for her campaign. Since this is a romantic comedy, I won’t consider it spoilers to say that the two eventually fall for each other. Where the movie goes from there, however, I’ll keep under wraps. O’Shea Jackson Jr. appears as Fred’s best friend Lance, while June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel also star as political aides to Field. Bob Odenkirk and Alexander Skarsgård also have brief but memorable roles, as well as Andy Serkis who proves he doesn’t need CGI to completely disappear into a character. Long Shot is directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah.

“I wanna smoke a molly with you.”

First, a word about chemistry in film: it’s a difficult thing to define at the best of times, and not enough people are willing to admit that chemistry is largely subjective. Do Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey have great chemistry, or none at all? Exactly. Long Shot is a good movie, and a great romantic comedy. If you’re going for the laughs, you’ll find plenty to enjoy. If you’re going for the romance, you’ll find a charming story about two people loving each other despite the odds. But chemistry? I don’t know. I think that Rogan and Theron have some, but that’s largely a result of creating and inhabiting characters we care about and root for. But this isn’t a steamy flick where sex and romance are the centrepiece—it’s a comedy that places its characters ahead of everything else.

Second, let’s talk about gender subversion. Long Shot, funnily enough, almost plays like an inversion of Fifty Shades of Grey. Instead of a younger female bookworm falling for a wealthy man in power, we have a younger male writer falling for a wealthy woman in power. From there, the tropes are similar—both feature the former entering the extravagant and overwhelming world of the latter, and both feature the latter eventually softening to meet the needs of the former. However, in Long Shot these tropes serve the characters and their journeys without undermining them. The message isn’t that the characters—or by extension, the audience—need to change, but to simply understand their place and impact in the world, and in each other’s lives.

“Deal with it, America.”

Long Shot is also similar in a lot of ways to Rogan’s breakout starring film, Knocked Up, wherein a schlubby guy and a successful woman fall in love after the woman (Katherine Heigl) gets pregnant. While receiving positive reviews, Knocked Up ended with the schlubby male character learning that he needed to (completely) change in order to be a better partner and father—which isn’t the most positive message in the world. Additionally, the film was also criticized for sexist tropes that devalued the female characters and painted them as cold and insensitive. Despite the laughs, Knocked Up managed to insult pretty much everyone, and this was in large part due to limiting the scope and focus of the main characters.

Honestly, Long Shot feels like a conscious reaction to Knocked Up, correcting the problems of it without ignoring or altering the underlying structure. This time, the story isn’t about Rogan’s character changing entirely, but rather learning to see the world from someone else’s perspective. And by focusing on Theron’s character as someone with a history and aspirations all her own, the film largely avoids Knocked Up‘s problematic gender issues. The audience understands what Charlotte Field is going through, and the pressures she faces as a female politician and presidential candidate. And while both characters grow and change over the course of the film, that change never fundamentally undermines what came before. In other words, the film rarely paints their existing traits as negative, and subsequently avoids painting the audience in a similar light. It’s wonderful.

“What a fun adventure.”

Most of this comes down to the script and performances. Seth Rogan plays…well, Seth Rogan, so if you’ve seen him anywhere before you know what you’re getting here. Charlize Theron however, is the real MVP. She knows when to play it straight and when to ham it up, and humour arises naturally from her character because of it. She makes the role look easy when it’s anything but, and proves yet again that she’s one of the most versatile and impressive actresses working today. The supporting cast are each great on their own, but honourable mention goes to Alexander Skarsgård as Canadian Prime Minister James Steward, doing a delightfully goofy Canuck accent. As a Canadian, I only take mild offence.

If I have one criticism of the film, it’s a small one: that too much time is spent praising Flarsky as a writer. It’s a common issue in any work featuring a writer as a protagonist, and feels far too often like the screenwriter yelling how great they are at us through the screen. But that’s pretty much it. Long Shot is a great film that delivers on laughs and doesn’t skimp on heart. There’s the odd bit of gross-out humour mixed with political comedy, along with the now-obligatory drugs montage that comes with every Seth Rogan film, but it all works. If you’re looking for a fun date movie that’s smarter than most when it comes to gender, or just a fun flick to see with friends, then look no further. Just don’t bring your parents.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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