Disjointed, uncertain 'Long Shot' misses most of its marks

BY NEIL MORRIS, CN+R Film Critic
Posted 5/3/19

There’s an entire subset of Seth Rogen’s film canon in which he plays schlubs who find themselves in romantic relationships with attractive women beyond their station. It began with …

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Disjointed, uncertain 'Long Shot' misses most of its marks

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There’s an entire subset of Seth Rogen’s film canon in which he plays schlubs who find themselves in romantic relationships with attractive women beyond their station. It began with “Knocked Up” and continued through “Pineapple Express,” “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” “Observe and Report,” and “Neighbors.” Call it personal wish fulfillment, or call it typical Hollywood patriarchy. This narrative device re-emerges in “Long Shot,” in which Rogen’s character, Fred, hooks up with the tall, smart, blond girl who used to babysit him when he was a dopey 13-year-old. Fred grows up to become a self-destructive, out-of-work journalist, while his erstwhile babysitter is Charlotte, a single woman who just happens to be the U.S. Secretary of State and a presidential candidate. Sounds like a match made in Hollywood screenplay heaven.

After Fred and Charlotte meet-not-so-cute at a D.C. soiree and reminisce about their former adventures in babysitting, Charlotte rather inexplicably offers Fred a job as her chief speech-writer. The progressively idealistic Fred is initially reluctant to team up with another centrist, compromising politician, but he relents because, well, Charlotte is beautiful. And even though Fred behaves in publicly embarrassing, insubordinate ways that would get any other staffer fired in a hot second, Charlotte keeps Fred around because, well, this is a movie.

Fred needs structure in his life and Charlotte is too uptight, so soon their late-night research sessions turn romantic, to the horror of Charlotte’s minders. The film’s fulcrum is an international environmental proposal Charlotte is championing that various special interests, including a Rupert Murdoch-esque media magnate (Andy Serkis), would like to pick apart. The effort also puts Charlotte at odds with sitting President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk), an oofish former TV actor largely out of his depth who isn’t seeking reelection because he wants to make it in the movies (the allegory here is wielded like a sledgehammer). The rest of the film is a series of vignettes in which Charlotte gets her groove back, like when they drop molly and a stoned Charlotte is unexpectedly summoned to negotiate the return of an American hostage.

“Long Shot” is held together by Theron’s dexterous talent, which seamlessly shifts from drama to farce and everything in between. You can believe Charlotte as a put-together politician or a party girl, and she’s single-handedly responsible for whatever chemistry exists between Charlotte and her man Fred. Otherwise, the film unfolds like an amalgam of “The American President” and the Claire Underwood-Tom Yates affair in “House of Cards,” minus any murder. Tonally, the film is all over the place, uncertain whether it wants to be an oddball romance, an excessively scatalogical comedy, or a mild commentary about our zeitgeist. It tries to be all three and accomplishes none. Even the pillars of Charlotte’s eco-initiative that everyone gets so worked up aren’t explained beyond the buzzwords “bees, tress, and seas,” hardly the sort of lofty ideological heft that illuminates are politically bankrupt times. We’re left with a dude who risks little for a woman way out of his league, next a woman expected to risk a lifetime of accomplishment to be with some dude, all because he remembers her platform when she once ran student body president. The message is supposed to be that love conquers all. But the truism foisted upon us is that love is really, really blind, and a little foolish, too.

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