The rom-com is not dead. It just needed a talented team to bring it back to life. Charlize Theron and Seth Rogan make up the pair of actors who fall in love in the very funny and highly appealing Long Shot. Director Jonathan Levine, who worked with Rogan in 2011’s 50/50, deftly handles the film’s two plot lines – politics and romance – employing the first for laughs, but never forgetting that romance is the heart of the story.
A successful man rescuing a down and out woman is a staple in rom-com films. (Think Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or Ralph Fiennes and Jennifer Lopez in Maid in Manhattan). Notting Hill turns that theme upside down when famous actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) falls in love with William Thacker (Hugh Grant), who runs a failing travel book store. What all three films have in common – indeed what all rom-com movies trade on – is that love is oftentimes unpredictable. Despite those online sites that promise matches based on similarities, watching two people who are polar opposites find common ground and true love is a winning formula for these films.
In Long Shot, Theron’s Charlotte Field is the U.S. Secretary of State, serving under the self-absorbed and narcissistic President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk). He calls her into the Oval Office to announce that he’s not running for reelection, choosing instead to work on his movie career. She’s the obvious choice to seek the nomination. Rogen’s Fred Flarsky quits his job writing for a progressive website after it is sold to a right-wing publisher, Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis). Attending a cocktail fundraiser with his friend, Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Fred sees Charlotte and remembers that she was once his babysitter. (The three-year age difference is negligible compared to the 25 year-one between the current French President and his wife.)
Fred manages to get some time with Charlotte to refresh her memory. That seems as far as it will go until early polling shows that she is seen as humorless by many voters. Why not hire a new speechwriter who can inject some fun into her talks? While her two advisors, Maggie (June Diane Raphael) and Tom (Ravi Patel), try to bring in a seasoned writer, Charlotte is determined to have Fred on board.
The romance does indeed seem like a long shot. The press and, for that matter, Charlotte’s staff, drum up a romance between her and the Canadian prime minster (Alexander Skarsgård, whose slurping an oyster during a dinner scene would be a relationship breaker for any woman). Fred emerges as the front runner, not only because he has history with Charlotte, but because he’s definitely the yin to her yang. Soon the two are evading staff to steal moments together. But can their romance survive a challenging campaign when everything is placed under a microscope? That, of course, is the age-old question rom-coms love to tackle.
The 112 minute script (by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah), could use some trimming, but there are few lags in the film, thanks to Levine’s excellent pacing. What holds the film together, however, is the chemistry between the two actors. Rogan does what he does best with perfect comic timing, while Theron amazes us – once again – with her ability to play just about any character on screen.
Top: Charlize Theron and Seth Rogan. Photo Credit: Hector Alvarez/Lionsgate