The secretary of state begins a romance with a schlub from her childhood.
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen
Review by Jon Kissel
Theron has occasionally dressed down over the course of her career, both in appearance (Monster) and personality (Young Adult). This is not the case in Long Shot. She is at her charming, intelligent, statuesque best here, putting her in razor-sharp contrast to Rogen, who is accentuating his schlubbiness and willingness to embarrass himself. Fred’s default uniform is a series of windbreakers, and he’s given to pratfalls and humiliating gross-out gags. With such a vast dichotomy, Long Shot signifies its understanding that this pairing makes no sense, and then openly asks the implied questions due to Charlotte’s public position. The film lives in a past that doesn’t exist anymore with its focus grouped candidates and numerical values assigned to this or that trait, and then introduces someone like Fred into that world, a hectoring and dismissive lefty who can only poll badly.
All of this reluctance is put in Raphael’s mouth, who witheringly rattles off Fred’s endless negatives. Between her and Fred is Charlotte, an incredibly powerful person who shouldn’t abase herself for anyone and especially not him. The film understands this as well, and Levine takes steps to demonstrate in some cathartic and transporting scenes how Charlotte’s waning idealism is invigorated by Fred’s bluntness and disconnection from her world. It also gives her some righteous indignation which is a bold-faced positive in the pro-con columns of whether or not to be with Fred. The film doesn’t need to convince Fred to be with Charlotte, but vice versa, and it does a good job of making the incredible at least vaguely possible.
Outside of the romance, the film, written by Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling, has a strong grasp on the Macrons and Trudeaus of the world. Alexander Skarsgard is a scene-stealer as the prime minister of Canada and a more appropriate, for Maggie at least, romantic interest for Charlotte. A boring centrist who can make the wags swoon, Skarsgard nails the character’s public need to be self-effacing about his good looks while carrying himself in such a way that connotes the confidence of being a Nordic god. He and Charlotte bond over how their low-scoring quirks have been stage-managed into oblivion, a practice that seems to have been rejected in the age of Trump and Boris Johnson, but it provides Long Shot with the undeniable moment of Skarsgard breaking out his weird banished giggle.
Considering its feel as a movie about a theoretical Hillary Clinton presidency as opposed to the one we live under now, Long Shot might have little to say about the current moment but it is an entertaining diversion from said moment. No one in the cast or crew is doing their best work, but that’s no great sin when one’s resume includes Fury Road or 50/50. Long Shot inspires comparisons to the exact type of pol it parodies, a good-looking and reasonably effective package that isn’t quite setting the world on fire. C+