Very rarely does romance finds its way into politics. There’s MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski (Comedian Michelle Wolf once called their relationship “a me-too that worked out.”) There’s the Conways, whose marriage has been fodder for the current president. There’s every dysfunctional relationship on Veep and every melodramatic one on The West Wing. Okay, maybe there are a few examples, but very rarely does it go well. Narratively, the last time we’ve seen romance and politics take center stage was in an American President. In comes Long Shot, a political romantic comedy that challenges the legitimacy of its predecessors in the genre.
Theron plays Secretary of State Charlotte Field, caught at a career crossroads when she plans on running for President. Before announcing her candidacy, she reconnects with Rogan’s Fred Flarsky, a passionate but reckless reporter – turned speechwriter, she used to babysit in high school. As they reconnect on a worldwide press tour, sparks fly and cause a media storm in Washington. Balancing politics, love and an evil media conglomerate, they try to figure out if the opportunities in life are worth taking.
You know a movie is good when the best parts are not in the trailer. Rogan’s blunt endearing passion and charm keeps his character from falling into man child territory. You see what the ever beautiful and brilliant sees in him. Theron finds comedic moments that compliment Rogan, rather than being eclipsed by his presence. She is the heart of the film and feels like a real person; warm, well-intentioned, distracted, trying to be everything to everyone at one time. She straddles her own wants and needs in a world where powerful women often sacrifice themselves for the wants and needs of the male.
Long Shot works because of the chemistry of Rogan and Theron. The brilliant supporting cast of June Diane Raphael, Ravi Patel, Bob Odenkirk, and Alexander Skarsgård easily fall in line behind their leads. Standout O’Shea Jackson Jr steals every scene he is in while subverting the black best friend troupe. As always, Andy Serkis disappears under prosthetics as the vile and all too real Parker Wembly, a media head with political influence.
The film excels at flipping tried and dated romantic comedy troupes on its head. Raphael’s character could have easily been the bitchy, one-dimensional adversary to Theron’s secretary of state. Instead, she is a supportive friend and coworker to Theron’s character. It’s clear that O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s black best friend has a life outside of being Rogan’s best friend, that he’s there to help, but also has a career and beliefs and life beyond a sidekick. The subversion of these conventions not only make the romantic comedy bearable to watch but compliment the natural chemistry of its leads.
Final Grade: A-