Take a look at an endangered species in your local movie theater—the Rom-Com
This week’s film is “Long Shot”, starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogan. Just a week after Pulitzer Prize winning film critic Wesley Morris lamented the decline of the romantic comedy in his NYT article entitled: Rom-Coms Were Corny and Retrograde. Why Do I Miss Them So Much? Director Jonathan Levine takes a modernized bite at the Rom-Com apple. In “Long Shot”, Seth Rogan plays Freddie Flarsky, a liberal, alt-news writer who never met a drug or counterargument he didn’t like. Flarsky quits his job when a conservative news mogul buys his publication and lands a job writing speeches for his childhood babysitter- who just happens to be the U.S. Secretary of State Charlotte Field, played by the glamorous Charlize Theron. Ms. Field is on the verge of a presidential campaign and she has all the qualities of a winner, well except apparently a high society boyfriend and a sense of humor. After some election polling, Field’s staff encourages her to cozy up to Canada’s most eligible political bachelor, played by Alexander Skarsguard. Flarsky, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite of what her staff has in mind, but he’s given a shot to write funny punch lines for the Secretary’s speeches. The rest is well, pretty predicable except managing to make Alexander Skarsguard less attractive than Seth Rogan- that was a surprise. However, “Long Shot” is more than a long shot to be the next “Pretty Woman” or “Harry Met Sally”. While the lead cast does their best to shine above a lackluster script, the film takes the easy path to low brow humor. Now admittedly, I’m a John Cusack “Say Anything” boombox outside the bedroom window kind of a guy and I’ll confess I can enjoy “Love Actually” even when it’s not Xmas. I’ll even take Matt Damon’s 20 seconds of insane courage speech in “We Bought a Zoo”. But Director Jonathan Levine can only muster about 10 seconds of courage in this film. And let’s just say when in “Say Anything” the Peter Gabrial song cries out: “Without a noise, without my pride I reach out from the inside,” he wasn’t referring to a burst of internal bodily fluids that “Long Shot” constantly mines for cheap laughs. A successful romantic comedy’s irresistible charms flow from connection and vulnerability, not TMI regarding grossly embarrassing moments. I am a Seth Rogan fan and in a few small moments, he’s given the space to shed his stoner routine and connect his character emotionally with Theron’s increasingly compromised Secretary of State. But those moments are too fleeting and not even another outstanding performance by O'Shea Jackson Jr., who had his breakout playing his dad in “Straight Out of Compton”, can save this film from its boorish depiction of partisan political humor.
So, on my ski trail rating system, “Long Shot” earns my intermediate BLUE ski trail rating. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re driving thru CO this weekend indulging in locally permitted cannabis tourism, “Long Shot” is your film. But I circle back to Wesley Morris’ NYT’s summary: Romantic comedies “find something funny about loneliness, curiosity, attraction, intimacy, conflict and rapprochement. [-] maybe it’s the featherweight of genres- but maybe it’s also among the most important. This is moviemaking that explores a basic human wonder about how to connect with a person who’s not you.” Given our current over-simplified political and unconnected social climate, “Long Shot” is perhaps the Rom-Com we deserve. We can do better.
“Long Shot” is rated R for or strong but brief sexual content, language, drug use and the opposite of “camp” fashion on display at the MET Gala.