In this politically charged day and age, comedians are frequently told to “leave politics out of it,” primarily by frustrated conservatives. While I personally believe that comedians will stop talking about politics when sanity returns to the nation, I understand the annoyance.
The Long Shot is destined to make those critics’ collective heads explode.
The Long Shot Review
Originally titled Flarsky, The Long Shot tells the story of, well, Flarsky (Seth Rogen), a journalist who’s profound sense of integrity borders on the juvenile. Shortly after quitting his job due to aforementioned integrity, Flarsky has a chance encounter with his old babysitter and first crush. It just so happens that said crush is Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), the current Secretary of State and potential Presidential Nominee.
Charlotte is concerned about her likability, one of the movie’s numerous nods to Hilary Clinton, and asks Flarsky to write jokes for her speeches. As a woman in Washington, Charlotte feels undervalued and taken for granted by her peers and superiors, while Flarsky has been impressed with her since they were kids. Soon, an unlikely partnership begins to form.
Meanwhile, Charlotte has important environmental legislation to pass. The road ahead is rocky, with a smiling devil of a media mogul played by Andy Serkis, and President Chambers, a former television-actor-turned-POTUS played wonderfully by Bob Odenkirk, conspiring against her, it is not long before Charlotte’s staff begin to wonder if Charlotte can win the election with Flarsky at her side.
Comedy Comes From the Unexpected
Many critics have compared The Long Shot to the Rob Reiner romcom The American President. This is less of an apt comparison and more a statement on how few political comedies like this actually exist. The American President, which we have written about before, is a political drama posing as a romantic comedy. It has the romantic plot of a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan vehicle with the dramatic thirst of All The President’s Men. This results not in a comedy that’s smarter than it looks; but a drama, warmer and sweeter than you might expect.
The opposite is true of The Long Shot, which has political issues on its mind, but its intention is to make you laugh. The Long Shot is not above drug-fueled nights of clubbing, or throwing a CG Seth Rogen out a window or even down a flight of stairs if it will make you smile.
I was sincerely shocked to find that Seth Rogen didn’t have a hand in writing the script. There’s more than enough genitalia, expletives, and hip hop references to constitute three whole lesser Seth Rogen comedies. There’s even a Todd McFarlane reference thrown in for good measure.
In most ways, this movie feels like any other Seth Rogen movie. Specifically, it feels like Seth Rogen decided to take the apocalypse and self-referential humor of This is the End and slap some West Wing on it. You have the same drugged up clubbing montages, the same dirty jokes, the same pop culture references, and surprisingly, a similar heart.
Director Jonathan Levine handles the movie with restraint, often holding back from the more absurd or goofy turns this movie takes, but credit must be given to screenwriters Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah who collaborated on the script.
What impressed me most about The Long Shot is that it doesn’t wear its brain with any sense of snobbery. This is, at its core, a film about a woman running for President of the United States and Sterling and Hannah are acutely aware of the drama inherent in the concept.
The Long Shot is smarter than your average comedy. The dramatic story is about whether or not Charlize will get her legislation passed. The bill is to protect the environment, and that made me nervous. I believe Global Warming is the defining crisis of our time, so it wasn’t that I was going to disagree with the movie.
No, I was worried that the film was going to get preachy, or as Webster’s defines it; “Preachy – adj – any liberal movie that talks about the environment or women’s issues or racism.”
It is true that the movie is more than eager to give the middle finger to anti-environment, anti-feminism, pro-Trump viewers, but it is capable of dodging the pitfalls of a preachy liberal mess with its subversion of Flarsky’s character.
Where The Long Shot really shines is when it is determined to hold Flarsky’s feet to the fire. Flarsky is a very liberal character. His integrity knows no bounds. In fact, he only agrees to help Charlize when she promises to be equally uncompromising, and when she does compromise, because that is what realistically has to be done, he throws a hissy fit. He can’t believe how anyone could be a republican, or a Christian for that matter, and both biases are thrown back in his face.
In short, this is a movie with liberal political views, but it doesn’t let smug liberals off the hook.
And never once does Rogen worry about how people will perceive him as “The First Husband.” That’s refreshing.
Last Word On The Long Shot
The critical response to The Long Shot was solidly positive, but the box office returns were abysmal.
I have to wonder who this movie is for exactly. Is it for me specifically? The far left, politically invested though frustrated at the discourse, white men in their 20s?
Let’s get personal here. I think the first four seasons of The West Wing is the greatest television show of all time. I also think Superbad is one of the boldest, funniest, most heartfelt comedies of all time.
I am the target audience for The Long Shot but I also fear that I am the only real audience for The Long Shot.
While the movie begins with a very funny scene at a secret Nazi party, and there’s some very raunchy humor, I wouldn’t describe the film as a raunchy sex comedy. Simultaneously, while it has the strong, political drama that my mom would like, there’s one too many ‘cum on the face’ jokes.
It is unfortunate that this movie failed to connect, because I really did have a good time with these characters. It isn’t subtle, but it is smart, and it has something it wants to say about politics, about the world, about men and women and the way they treat and perceive one another. It’s a beauty-and-the-beast story that isn’t about the beast turning into a hunk of man meat. It’s about the struggle for women trying to “have it all” without ever talking about it. And it handles it all with good humor and surprising warmth.
Depending on how the primaries turn out, give this a watch in a few months.