Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron make a delightful romantic and comedic pairing, as a schlubby journalist and the glamorous politician who falls for him, in Jonathan Levine's "Long Shot." The R-rated romantic comedy is a bit raunchy, a little sweet, and totally entertaining.
Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, an idealistic but hot-tempered writer for a Brooklyn alternative newspaper. He's a consummate journalist, with an unyielding devotion to getting a story no matter the cost. When we watch him attempt to infiltrate a white supremacist organization under the name "Aryan Grande," he somehow winds up agreeing to get a swastika tattooed on his arm.
But then the paper Fred works for gets purchased by mega media conglomerate (pretty obviously a stand-in for Fox, with a Rupert Murdoch-esque owner played by Andy Serkis), he immediately quits his position. That principled response is good for his pride but not much else, and he finds himself out of a job with nothing to show for it.
In an effort to lift his spirits, Fred's best friend Lance (O'Shea Jackson Jr., turning in another excellent comedic supporting role -- when will someone let him headline his own film already?) takes him out for a night of drinking, and they end up at a swanky charity event. There Fred runs into his childhood crush, Charlotte Field, who just happens to be Secretary of State.
Through a convoluted series of interactions, Fred ends up charming her, and as she prepares to make a run for the presidency, Charlotte hires him as a speechwriter. Suddenly Fred's accompanying her on a continent-spanning tour as she promotes her pet project: a wide-ranging, international, environmental initiative that will become a key part of her platform. Along the way, sparks begin to fly between the pair.
The film takes some biting shots at the very real double standard faced by women, and the way female public figures are endlessly scrutinized based on ridiculously superficial criteria. It's not hard to think of plenty real-life parallels in the current election cycle, and the way criticisms of many female candidates seem to largely stem from their appearance and "likeability" than any issues of real consequence.
Rogen and Theron have a wonderful chemistry, and they make for a surprisingly well-balanced team. Rogen's definitely in his wheelhouse, but it's always a pleasure to see Theron get more chances to show off how funny she can be. Here she gets to drink, curse, have sex, and negotiate an international hostage crisis while under the influence of molly.
The film spends a lot of time justifying why someone who looks like Theron would even look twice at someone like Rogen. But the attempt at balance feels a little self-conscious, overlooking the fact that there are plenty of us out there who think Rogen is pretty damn attractive, thank you very much.
For all its odd-couple pairings, its depiction of a mainstream politician who genuinely wants to get things done is perhaps what most obviously marks the film as political fantasy. It is nice, though, that the eventual conflict between the couple doesn't arise because of her devotion to her career, and Fred never blinks at taking on the role of supportive partner.
There's also room for a number of scene-stealing performances, namely June Diane Raphael as Charlotte's closest aide, who's excellent at cutting Fred down to size. Bob Odenkirk is very funny as the doltish current President -- whose popularity comes from having played the Commander-in-Chief over several seasons on a television show, and whose real aspiration is to break into movies. Also good is Alexander Skarsgård, playing the sweetly dorky prime minister of Canada who engages in some pseudo flirtation with Charlotte.
Jonathan Levine, who previously worked with Rogen in "50/50" and "The Night Before," has a sure and steady hand as director, and the screenplay writers Dan Sterling ("The Interview") and Liz Hannah ( Steven Spielberg's "The Post"), use their differing sensibilities and approach to politics to smart effect.
Charming and witty, "Long Shot" is a comedy that actually has some things to say about relationships, sexism, government, and the ability to compromise: a trait, the films argues, that's as necessary in romance as it is in politics.