Review: Long Shot (2019)

Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) finds himself unemployed after the media site he works for is bought out. A friend drags him to a party to cope, where he happens to run into Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), his childhood babysitter who has moved on to a career in politics, currently working as the US Secretary of State. She is getting ready to kick off a presidential campaign and decides to take on Fred as a speechwriter – this, of course, leading to a risky love affair.

Long Shot is a film that does some things very well while simply putting no effort anywhere else, a work carried by a very comedic script and strong performances. Yet even on a writing level, I have pause – while the jokes are funny, the framing structure is rather flimsy.

For whatever reason, my attention kept being drawn to the relative silence of the film. There isn’t much of a score at all, with only a few scenes featuring an admittedly strong selection of licensed songs. I’ve certainly seen tons of movies with little to no non-diegetic sound, which means there must be something else at play – I blame the editing, leaving too big of a lull between jokes and doing nothing to fill the time between.

Long Shot is similarly lacking with cinematography, even more than the average ‘modern Hollywood’ style I find myself complaining about – there are so many close-ups of people simply speaking. On a surface level, this is such a bland film both aurally and visually, an absolutely lazy form of presentation.

Luckily for everyone involved with the project, a strong cast of comedic talents carry the film. Beyond Seth Rogen falling into a familiar role as a disheveled, opinionated mess and Charlize Theron perfectly capturing a comically bizarre take on a serious woman in power, many of the minor roles manage to steal their scenes. Bob Odenkirk plays the president, a former actor more concerned with making the leap from television to film once he’s done than his current role as the most powerful man in the world. Odenkirk is perfect at capturing that sort of self-serving narcissism. Andy Serkis plays an unrecognizable old man named Parker Wembley, the media tycoon that bought out Fred’s former company that is now setting his eyes on controlling Charlotte’s political stances. He’s as slimy as he needs to be, ugly enough that I felt bad for whoever the actor was before realizing it was Serkis caked in makeup.

The cycle of strong minor performances really highlights the overall feeling from this film – it’s a series of individually strong moments that don’t add up to much. Strangely, I could buy the central romance, but the politics are so glazed over, too much of it falling conveniently into place. I get that the filmmakers don’t want to ruffle any specific feathers – one obnoxious scene brings up the whole ‘you can be friends with someone across the aisle’ angle (largely obnoxious because I can’t believe a man such as Fred, who has built a career out of his charged political beliefs, wouldn’t have discussed these things with his friends) – but it ends up not saying much of anything at all.

But, oh boy, I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t fun. I can forgive much of these complaints and say this is a movie well worth checking out if you simply want to be entertained for a few hours. If you like the kind of crude comedy Seth Rogen tends to star in, this should be exactly up your alley. It doesn’t aim for anything higher, but did anyone expect more?

3 Stars Out of 5

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