I can count on one hand the number of movies like “Long Shot,” part of the rare genre I’d love to see more of: the brainy romantic comedy. This part political satire / part odd couple flirt fest is a sharp and layered comedy that will especially appeal to career-minded, politically savvy intellectuals.
Frumpy, free-spirited journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is a gifted reporter who is so outspoken, he often gets into trouble. Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is a sophisticated, accomplished diplomat who is currently serving as the youngest female Secretary of State. The two appear to have absolutely nothing in common. When Fred’s newspaper is purchased by a bigoted, right-leaning publisher (Andy Serkis), he quits on principle. To cheer him up, Fred’s best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) invites him along to a fancy party. That night, Fred and Charlotte’s paths cross when they recognize each other from an embarrassing incident from childhood (she was his babysitter and his first crush).
It’s a re-meet-cute that actually makes sense. Charlotte is preparing to put in a bid to run for President, and focus groups have dinged her on her sense of humor. Fred is charming, funny, and currently unemployed. She hires him to punch up her speeches with a little laughter, but Fred’s idealism is at odds with the back slapping political system.
This film is far more astute than the typical fish out of water underdog story. It raises serious issues like racism, sexism, partisanship, and integrity, but with humor. It’s insightful in a way not often seen onscreen, with genuine yet flawed characters just trying to do their best in the world. A little too many of the jokes (particularly the ones with the raunch factor set to 100) land painfully flat, but there’s something about the unexpectedly shrewd beauty and the beast story line that proves as charming as it is thoughtful. This is a smart romantic comedy for smart audiences.