I saw Long Shot last weekend, when it opened, and really enjoyed it, but I’ve been struggling since then to write a review. On the one hand, it was the easygoing, funny, romantic comedy I’ve been waiting for. Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron are both charming and fun to watch. I laughed a lot and never felt bored. On the other hand, there was something amiss about the world they occupied, an alternate version of D.C. that was sometimes depicted realistically, sometimes satirically, and sometimes seemed to be a part of a TV-D.C. whose qualities I hadn’t yet learned. I wasn’t there for the sharp political satire, so I mostly didn’t mind, but some of the nonsensical aspects of the setting did make the characters less believable — and that made their romance a little less believable too.
In the world of Long Shot, we’re supposed to believe that the Secretary of State, Charlotte Fielding (Theron) hires a lefty journalist, Fred Flarsky (Rogan) to be her speech writer, and then falls in love with him. Although Theron has the poise and gravitas to play Secretary of State, the environmental policy she’s putting into the world doesn’t seem to be grounded in anything substantive, like, say, a carbon tax or policies against deforestation. Again, I wasn’t there for the environmental policy review, but I think the audience could have handled a few more details. With Rogan, I had trouble believing that he was a journalist, mainly because he didn’t seem that curious about Theron’s job or high profile international negotiations. When he has the chance to speak with her one-on-one (and off the record!) he asks her about her past, about music and pop culture, and of course, about her dating life. Which is fine, but these are two people who are both totally obsessed with politics — why aren’t they talking politics? News? Where’s the gossip? Wouldn’t this be a huge part of their conversations? Their attraction?
Did I secretly want The West Wing? Maybe. I did appreciate the fast pace of the movie and the general ease of it, and maybe you can’t have that if you delve into a discussion about soybean subsidies or whatever. But there was one moment of realism, when Fred Flarsky is first offered the speechwriting job: instead of accepting immediately, he says he’ll have to think about it because her politics are so much more moderate than his. Charlotte’s staff is annoyed, but Charlotte takes him seriously and gives him a pitch–which bowls him over. He’s in, and it’s satisfying even though you knew he would say yes–he has to, for the movie’s sake. But I liked that the story paused for a minute, to think about how a journalist like Fred Flarsky and a leader like Charlotte Fielding might really interact. I wish there had been more moments like that.
Long Shot was co-written by Liz Hannah, who also co-wrote The Post. Like The Post, Long Shot centers on a woman whose political power is isolating. Unlike most Hollywood movies, it doesn’t blame the woman for her ambition or her loneliness. Instead, both films show how the womens’ isolation is a product of the world’s discomfort with their power. Long Shot also does a good job of revealing the extra work that Charlotte must do to keep up a polished, ladylike appearance. She can’t eat skewered foods — or hardly any food — in public, and when she has a free moment, she’ll use free weights or do some crunches. She’s always stealing naps. One of my favorite scenes was the very first one, when she draws a hot bath to wind down at the end of a long day, but falls asleep sitting at the edge of the tub. The overflowing water is what wakes her up. She turns off the water, looks at the bath, and then, instead of getting in, just lies down on the soft towels on the floor. She’s too exhausted to relax.