SXSW 2019 Review: LONG SHOT

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with romantic comedies. There are those that I love dearly and the ones I simply cannot stand. Even the mediocre entries frustrate me to the point of hatred because at this point in Hollywood’s history, they are usually shamelessly lazy rehashes of multiple similar plots. Thankfully, Long Shot does not fall within this category. In fact, this delightful comedic SXSW entry may tread some familiar territory, but its modernizations and strong feminist ideals make this a movie to admire and love dearly.

Charlize Theron stars as Charlotte Field, the current U.S. Secretary of State and probable presidential hopeful for the next election. Though Charlotte is smart, driven, and passionate, her political career takes up so much of her time that she is unable to have a much of as romantic life. Enter Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), a frumpy, but intelligent and insightful political journalist. As it turns out, during their youth, Charlotte once worked as Fred’s babysitter. Fred always had a massive crush on Charlotte, but definitely failed at winning her heart.

During a fateful party, Fred runs into Charlotte and the two get reacquainted. Although the initially enjoyable reunion becomes painfully awkward, Charlotte eventually becomes impressed with Fred’s writing skills and hires him as her speech writer. As the two work together closely, they develop a palpable chemistry that transcends the work environment. This relationship evolves into an unlikely romance which might have some negative implications for Charlotte’s public image and her upcoming presidential run.

Written by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah, and directed by Jonathan Levine, Long Shot is a much needed breath a delightful and exciting fresh air in the romantic comedy genre. The remarkable script by Sterling and Hannah impressively tackles modern relationships where a woman must find that happy balance between her goals and persoanal desires. I was also wowed by how well the filmmakers and the actors develop these lead characters. Charlotte is not just a woman wanting to be saved. She is a powerful person who seeks the best of both worlds and must find the courage to embrace both fully. Fred is a somewhat insecure, but smart man who must find the strength to accept public scrutiny and be comfortable with a less glamorous role.

In addition to these gender and relationship dynamics, the filmmakers offer some biting commentary on the state of American politics today. On top of all of this, Levine and company have made a genuinely hilarious and quite lovable comedy that can’t really seem to do much wrong. Granted, there is some transparency as to where the story ends up, but the skillful storytelling makes the experience an enjoyable and satisfying journey.

In addition to Rogen and Theron who are both outstanding, funny, and winning in their roles, Long Shot has a truly amazing supporting cast. June Diane Raphael is absolutely hilarious as Maggie Millikin, a silver-tongued staff member of Charlotre mostly focussed on her boss’s public image. Ravi Patel is also quite funny as Tom, another staff member of Charlotte. Andy Serkis is nearly unrecognizable as media mogul Parker Wembley, a sleazy, money-grubbing opportunist.

Bob Odenkirk is a riot as the current president, a man only concerned with his own fame. O’Shea Jackson, Jr. proves himself as a genuine comedic treasure here as Fred’s close friend Lance. Also notable is Alexander Skarsgård as the Canadian Prime Minister James Steward, a handsome, but vacuuous politician interested in dating Charlotte.

Great acting, intelligent and astute writing, skillful direction, fantastic comedy, and a love story that is modern and topical–what more does one need from a romantic comedy? I was thoroughly pleased with this sweet serving of love and politics during a time when politics are rather unsavory in real life. If one is looking for hearty laughs and romance at the cinema, Long Shot is the way to go. It is feel good cinema for sure, but it is one that doesn’t completely insult one’s intelligence.

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