Long Shot review: Sexist stereotypes are reversed in this goofy and surprisingly crude farce

Film starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen offers Farrelly brothers-style gags about masturbation, but little else

Geoffrey Macnab
Thursday 02 May 2019 08:22
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Long Shot - Trailer

Dir: Jonathan Levine. Starring: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, Bob Odenkirk, Lisa Kudrow, Andy Serkis, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Alexander Skarsgard. 15 cert, 125 mins

Don’t expect any biting political satire in Long Shot. Nor will you find much of the wit and glittering repartee that characterised classic Hollywood screwball comedies. Instead, we are served up Farrelly brothers-style gags about masturbation and adolescents with “boners”. In its own crude way, the film is plenty of fun. It also tweaks the usual sexist stereotypes. The film tells the story of the unlikely affair between a slobbish journalist (Seth Rogen) and the US presidential hopeful (Charlize Theron) who used to babysit him when he was a teenager. Charlotte Field (Theron) is the political heavyweight. Fred Flarsky (Rogen) is her piece of rough. If she is the JFK, he is the Marilyn Monroe who has to be smuggled secretly into her rooms. If she is the Richard Gere, he is the Julia Roberts.

Fred works as an investigative reporter for the “Brooklyn Advocate”, a campaigning Village Voice-style newspaper. A typical assignment will involve him infiltrating a neo-Nazi white power group by getting drunk with skinheads. He is middle-aged but wears baseball caps and windbreakers. He may enjoy his alcohol and recreational drugs, but he is an idealist. When his newspaper is taken over by leering, right-wing media baron, Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis looking and sounding uncannily like Barry Humphries’ Les Patterson), Fred promptly quits.

While Fred adjusts to life without a job, the high-achieving Charlotte, secretary of state in the US government, is contemplating a run for the presidency in the 2020 elections. She is the type who sets her alarm for 3.35am, does rounds of media interviews with breakfast shows while working out in the gym, and then has “micro-naps” standing up to make up for her chronic lack of sleep. Her dim-witted boss, President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk), is a cross between Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan. He plans to quit the White House for something more prestigious, namely a career in the movies.

Years before, Fred and Charlotte were neighbours. She was a few years older. He had a huge crush on her. They’re thrown together again now in unlikely circumstances when both attend the same party. They lock eyes across the room.

Fred and Charlotte seem like polar opposites. He is a shambling and chaotic everyman. She is an ultra-disciplined political insider. Inevitably, they are attracted to one another.

Much of the comedy here hinges on Charlotte’s desperate attempts to stay “on image”. Her aides are busy organising focus groups and compiling polls to double check what the public most likes about her. If she dates the wrong guy or is snapped on a cell phone with her mouth full of chicken kebab, her popularity will plummet. As a female candidate dealing with a deeply sexist media, her political views are secondary. Everything is about perception. On this basis, her trusted aides (June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel) regard her romance with the fat, bearded Fred, who becomes one of her speech writers, as a potential disaster.

Theron, also one of the producers of the film, shows a nice line in dry humour. Although she may seem as ruthless and single-minded as Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood in House of Cards, she has a likeable, self-deprecating quality. She enjoys dancing more than she does schmoozing with the blandly good-looking Canadian prime minister (Alexander Skarsgard sending up Justin Trudeau). Her language (“let’s get f**ked up”) isn’t always decorous. If male politicians are allowed to philander, she feels she should be allowed to do the same. Her frankness in the bedroom embarrasses Fred, who is far more prudish than she is.

The film has plenty of barbed observations about the chauvinism of male politicians (the president seems to regard Charlotte as his secretary rather than his secretary of state). It also includes some good gags about celebrities who’ve fallen foul of the #MeToo movement (Brett Ratner and Jeremy Piven among them). There is some spirited slapstick along the way, generally involving Rogen’s many pratfalls, most of which are captured in excruciating detail on mobile phones and then shared on social media.

The disappointment is that the filmmakers settle for goofy and often surprisingly crude farce rather than trying to skewer the Washington elite. The film makes little distinction between Republicans and Democrats. It refuses to engage in any meaningful way with everything from Charlotte’s “global rehabilitation” eco-initiative to President Chambers’ sleaze and corruption. There is very little darkness here. Bizarrely, even the beer-swilling neo-Nazis seem quite likeable. Fred may have a photograph of Franz Kafka prominently displayed in his apartment, but he is more of a clown than he is a Josef K figure.

Long Shot is enjoyable enough as a romcom, but is so lightweight that it doesn’t come close to hitting its targets.

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