It feels like we haven’t seen a smart, sophisticated, instant-classic rom-com since Meg Ryan told Tom Hanks, “I wanted it to be you so badly.”
The genre is now muddled, filled with alternative characters that reflect our ever-changing technological society: a cancer patient falling for another cancer patient over FaceTime, rich young jet-setting professionals forced to choose between love and family, and lord, if we never see another “friends with benefits” rom-com again, it will certainly be too soon.
The newest addition to the genre is “Long Shot”, a film that ticks the funny boxes, but also dusts off that good ol’ traditional warm and fuzzy shelf thanks mainly to Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s undeniable, if not also undeniably surprising, chemistry and a solid script that monopolizes on the charisma and comedic timing of its headliners.
Rogen is Fred Flarsky, an immature schmuck who has recently quit his job as a progressive journalist after his publication is purchased by a right-wing conglomerate. Even by the standards set by Rogen’s previous roles, Flarsky is a juvenile manboy wrapped in a security blanket neon windbreaker and hiding behind a large beard. He’s frustratingly self-righteous and the epitome of quote-unquote millenial entitlement.
Theron is Charlotte Field, the Secretary of State of the United States under a former-actor-turned-politician (Bob Odenkirk) with a skewed sense of duty that feels all too familiar. She’s gorgeous and sophisticated, but as she hopes to make a run for the Oval Office in the upcoming election, her gender is very apparently the limiting factor. In particular, the public finds her unfunny and stiff, not the most shocking indictment on a female in power.
Flarsky and Field were childhood friends, and when they are reunited at a charity event, Field decides to take a chance and hire him to help pump up the humor in her speeches. On the road, he shows her how to let loose while she shows him what it means to finally enter the adult world.
If you find Rogen even a modicum of endearing, then he’ll win you over handily. In “Long Shot”, he is stripped of his weed-related gags (mostly, we should say) and without his usual buddy sidekick. What is left on screen is a heartfelt performance and an enjoyable, believable character arc. Theron, too, is magnetic to watch in an unusually light role for the Oscar winner who usually gravitates to meatier dramatic roles.
As likable as the film is, it runs about 20 minutes too long, and the pace can, at times, be slow and deliberate. The politics and general job handling of the characters are dumbed down and simplified to the point of being nearly unrecognizable. Field is running on a platform of “saving bees, trees and the seas”. At one point, she is given the ultimatum to “drop trees” or she won’t be given the endorsement she needs to win the election. Because she is the lone ranger safeguarding the future of all the trees.
Regardless of its few pitfalls, “Long Shot” is a charming comedy that will leave you grinning uncontrollably as schlubby guy meets incredible girl. The rest is rom-com history.