Monday, March 27, 2023

Rogen, Theron odd couple in ‘Long Shot’

After the release of films “Shazam!,” “Hellboy,” and “Avengers: Endgame,” superhero fatigue is starting to set in. There are only so many times we can see something explode, so a romantic comedy can be a nice change of pace.

“Long Shot” stars Seth Rogen as Fred Flarsky, a recently unemployed journalist who reunites with his first crush, Secretary of State Charlotte Field, played by Charlize Theron. As she gets ready to announce her presidential candidacy, Charlotte hires Fred to punch up her speeches.

Would you believe me if I told you that they end up falling in love?

Their relationship plays out like any in a romantic comedy with an odd couple. Fred is overly passionate while Charlotte is more professional and well-mannered. Fred is always wearing the same teal windbreaker and baseball cap, while Charlotte has vibrant dresses and powerful pantsuits. 

As they get emotionally closer, they start to influence each other. Fred starts wearing more suits and Charlotte starts to let her guard down and starts cursing at press conferences. In one scene, they go out partying in a fun moment of connection before being cut off abruptly by a hostage situation. And in classic fashion, there is a “go get her” moment where Seth Rogen races through New York City to get to his love.

Romantic comedies often get brushed aside because their formula is familiar and audiences know that they end up together. What ends up being the best part of these movies are the performances.

Much like last year’s remake of “A Star is Born,” the chemistry between these two stars elevates the material and makes it feel more realistic and less “paint by the numbers.” Rogen is vulnerable and sweet and Theron, who might be best known for her gritty performance in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” has great comedic timing and is clearly having fun with the role. 

While the romance is the center of the story, the humor has two sources, as exemplified by the two writers, Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling. Hannah received a Golden Globe Nomination for her work on “The Post” and Sterling has written for television shows “Girls” and “South Park.”

The most obvious point of comedy comes from Rogen. His naturalistic and improvised comedy from Judd Apatow movies like “Knocked Up” are used well. His physicality as a comedic actor should also be noted, his pratfalls here are reminiscent of the airbag gag from “Neighbors.”

Another element to the humor is the political satire, which is unusual for a romantic comedy. This is clearly a movie written for this political moment as Charlotte is serving President Chambers, played by Bob Odenkirk, who was a television star before the election and seems to be more concerned about moving into films than his current term as president. 

I found myself laughing continually at both the satire and the more lowbrow, but in the overall story, it is not perfect. Some scenes are clearly written by one writer over the other and overall it can feel unbalanced and not completely seamless. The two hour and five minute runtime could be trimmed down to give the narrative a more concise flow as well.

What’s most important is that the audience buys into the relationship and is convinced. 

It may have some structural problems, but it can be enjoyed by those who are not too obsessed with the mechanics of filmmaking.

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