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Thursday, May 2, 2019 12:04 am

Unlikely duo Theron and Rogen score in Long Shot

 

I have a feeling that Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen will not go down in cinematic history as this generation’s Hepburn and Tracy. Yet based on their recent collaboration, Long Shot, I’d be willing to watch another film or two with them. These seeming opposites have a genuine chemistry between them that makes you believe they could be a romantic couple…or almost. After all, going to the movies is all about the suspension of disbelief. What with the acceptance of all the ridiculousness that occurs in superhero movies, this shouldn’t be much of a leap.

Theron is Secretary of State Charlotte Field, a smart, ambitious woman laboring under a dullard of a president (Bob Odenkirk).  He privately informs her that, if interested, he would endorse her for his soon-to-be vacant office, if she interested in a presidential run.  She is, and as a result, quickly pulls together an exploratory committee, decides to give it a go and sets out to raise the millions needed to make her campaign viable.  At a high-tone fundraiser she crosses paths with Fred Flarsky (Rogen), a long-forgotten acquaintance who she happened to babysit while in high school. Though unkempt and a walking rough edge, he happens to be a very smart writer, who Field ultimately hires to polish her speeches on the campaign trail, a move her uptight manager Maggie Millikin (June Diane Raphael) frowns upon from the start.

Because of the pressure cooker atmosphere they’re in, as well as their constant, close proximity to one another, it’s inevitable the duo gets to know one another better but not that they necessarily fall in love. Screenwriters Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah are very smart in the way they structure the story, as sex or romance isn’t initially a part of the equation where they are concerned. They argue about policy in regard to the platform she’s running on, go toe-to-toe over how she should convey her beliefs and come to loggerheads regarding decorum at a foreign dignitary’s soiree.  Their disputes are grounded and well-thought out and it’s refreshing to see two such intelligent people argue about weighty issues in a smart, logical way.  The respect that builds between them opens the door to romantic possibilities and makes what ensues logical.

Theron and Rogen are very good, and despite their conflicting styles, mesh well in the many scenes they share.  They shine alone as well, and of particular note is a sequence in which Field finds herself having to deal with a diplomatic crisis while inebriated after an ill-advised night out.  Theron has never been known for her comic chops but here she excels, taking a subtle approach as her character runs roughshod over the usual protocol regarding hostage situations to humorous effect.  The two principals get solid support from Raphael in a thankless role as a short-sighted scold, while O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Flarsky’s best, straight-shooting friend Lance makes the most of any scene he’s in.

At its core, Long Shot speaks to compromises we all make, whether we’re in the spotlight or not, in order to please someone else. Flying in the face of popular opinion or altering one’s beliefs is an act fraught with personal and professional peril.  This is never more obvious than in today’s political arena where politicians are grilled incessantly about their stance on a myriad of issues and one seemingly off-putting response can result in professional ruination and public scorn.  Shot reminds us that in the end, it’s whether we can look ourselves in the mirror or not that really matters. 

Contact Chuck Koplinski at koplinski@usd116.org.

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