By Bradley Lane
Politics are becoming mainstream. Like it or not, basically all media is inherently political. Whether you’re watching a late-night talk show, listening to your favorite band, or going to see the newest Marvel film, at some level they are all communicating political messaging. At this point, even not addressing politics in media is a political stance. Communicating political messaging through media is not hard; what is hard is communicating that message well without talking down to your audience or being so subtle that it does not connect with general audiences. So, a new Seth Rogan comedy centered on his romantic relationship with the secretary of state, played by Charlize Theron, seemed destined to fall short of that high bar. However, I am very pleased to report that while Long Shot does lack subtly in its messaging and themes, it is a supremely heartfelt and funny comedy about polarized times and vulnerability.
Long Shot focuses on an outspoken and brash journalist, Fred Flarsky, played by Seth Rogan, after quitting his small newspaper job after being bought out by a large media conglomerate, owned by right wing media mogul Parker Wembley. After a chance encounter at a swanky event he stumbles into with his best friend, Fred reconnects with the secretary of state and his old babysitter, Charlotte Field. Field has presidential aspirations, but her initial polling reveals a lack of humor in her public persona might hold her back. To combat this, she hires on Fred as a speech writer, where they soon develop feelings for one another, and the high-pressure nature of Field’s career threatens to damage their relationship, as well as set the scene for some hilarious comedic situations.
The performances in Long Shot are uniformly great. Theron has proven herself as a dramatic actor but plays the straight woman to Rogan’s goofy antics really well. In the same vein, Rogan handles the more dramatic moments with a level of seriousness and sincerity that he has yet to land in any of his films previously. Unfortunately, during these more serious scenes, we are robbed of genuine tension by an overbearing and overly dramatic score. The music is not bad, just overused to emotionally manipulate the audience into feeling certain ways about certain events. The standout performance of the film is Andy Serkis as Parker Wembley. Wembley is a mash-up parody of real-world media figures Steve Bannon and Rupert Murdoc, brought to life by makeup, prosthetics and a great performance by a nearly unrecognizable Andy Serkis.
The writing behind Long Shot is its greatest quality. The script, written by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah, is careful to respect viewers’ sensitivities without becoming toothless in its critique, and ultimately reveals its deftness throughout the film. Both Hannah and Sterling have written political films before with Hannah, collecting writing credits on the 2018 Oscar nominated, The Post, and Sterling helping to write the extremely controversial Seth Rogan comedy, The Interview. Clearly their shared experiences working with political material has guided their artistic vision in Long Shot and their messages land, mostly, without a hiccup. Field and Flarsky’s relationship serve not only as a great on-screen couple but as an allegory for the film’s major conflict and even more, the state of American political discourse.
Long Shot is a funny and engaging critique of the extremely polarized American political landscape that emphasizes the importance of empathy and vulnerability without ever sounding overly preachy. -3/5 Stars