'Long Shot' Review: A Vocal Modern Rom-Com Carried By Seth Rogen And Charlize Theron [SXSW]

Jonathan Levine's Long Shot is a sufficiently safety-wrapped package of vocal demands for change structured around equally predictable rom-com beats (watch the trailer). Not the worst thing in the world by any stretch of emphasis, mind you. Cutesy Hallmark signatures are traded for shared gender relationship roles, highlighting women's ongoing strife in daily global environments while romance flourishes under often redefined subgenre frameworks. Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling's screenplay says less about "Red vs Blue" headbutting and chromosome-focused stereotypes than perceived, but still provides a comedic outlet for strong performers who attract "unlikely" lovestruck charms.

Oh yeah, did I mention Long Shot tempts us with the idea of Charlize Theron leading America into a brighter tomorrow? As they'd say in the meme world, "You have my sword."

Theron stars as Secretary of State Charlotte Field, a rockstar politician whose bid for a presidential run is fast-tracked when Bob Odenkirk's serving POTUS opts out of reelection (in pursuit of his movie career). Field's ratings are off the charts as a candidate except in one area – humor. Enter Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), a hard-hitting online journalist who just quit his staff position after corporate buyout news breaks (integrity first). Now is when we should mention that a 16-year-old Field used to babysit 13-year-old Flarsky. Thanks to a chance meeting, the two rekindle their friendship and Flarsky accepts a position as Field's punch-up speechwriter – which complicates once Flarsky's romantic feelings towards Field come rushing back.

As a comedy, Long Shot is as politically outspoken and immaturely crass  as you'd expect given Rogen's involvement, especially since it's from his own Point Grey production banner. Offhand gags range from Boyz II Men appreciation, colorful Swedish suits that remind of matador clothing (a nice "Cap'n Crunch" laugh), and gross-out takes on today's shadiest governmental practices (blackmail, leaked tapes, monopolization of free speech). Field remains a stunning picture of driven sophistication (except when on Molly) – idealistic and not fully digested by the bigger machine she lubricates – while Flarsky's Brooklyn sweatpants enthusiast is defined as a potato in a windbreaker. Theron the micro napping, dynamic, confident woman whose poise and stature could topple any regime – Rogen the stoner influence who infiltrates White Supremacy meetings and advocates for moral commitment to causes that demand spotlights.

Together they're polar opposites whose relationship could spell doom for Field given the public's reaction – but can the American people prevent true love from winning? (You've seen this story before.)

Long Shot - Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen

As a mirror to society's constant objectification of female counterparts in equal spaces, Long Shot is in-your-face but surface-take slight. Theron's stressed dissatisfaction in these moments cannot be denied – angrily accepting necessary evils in order to advance – but romantic entanglement beats make Hannah and Sterling's fight for gender advancement feel almost throwaway at times. Depicting Theron as a commanding presidential candidate looks tremendous on screen, and grants us a fantasy world where "Madam Theron" exists, but Long Shot struggles to say anything further on the subject of "women can do the same jobs as men." Certainly not a failed statement – repeat it forever – but, again, there's a deeper level of fighting powers beyond straightforward proclamations that are never approached.

Supporting characters find their places amongst Theron and Rogen's cabinet, ranging from Alexander Skarsgård's caricature of Canada's Prime Minister to June Diane Raphael's militant aid to Field who constantly negs Flarsky. As fiercely as the physical chemistry between Theron and Rogen explodes at times, scene partners like O'Shea Jackson Jr. make the most of black tie events and bodega life chats alike. Andy Serkis' prosthetics-heavy role as the piggish Parker Wembley represents everything wrong with mass media neutering and old-school mistreatment – next to Paul Scheer's sexist Not Fox News anchor – while Odenkirk portrays a hammier Oval Office inhabitant whose election succeeded because of a past career on television (playing the president, no less). Rogen and Theron headline with coupled power, but the larger ensemble works as a smooth, collective whole.

Long Shot is a measurably funny romantic comedy birthed from unlikely worlds colliding, second chances, and fighting for not only rightful morality, but what you passionately desire. There's no denying Charlize Theron's flexed strength while pushing back against systemic toxicity, just as Seth Rogen's commentary on overly judgemental outrage provides munchies for thought given his character's proclivity for keeping spirits high. Jonathan Levine's grip on messaging might leave depth to be desired given the modern relevance and volatility in broadcasted life imitating satirical art, but there's plenty of R-rated date night fun when romantic pursuit finds itself under overseas insurgent siege. Situationally unique, funniest in small zinger doses, and frustrated enough with ongoing civil failures to at least say *something* – as textbook that blueprint may be./Film Rating: 7 out of 10