There's been many movies and TV shows that concerned female presidents, from 1964's Kisses for My President to TV's 2014 State of Affairs, but director Jonathan Levine's Long Shot opts to focus on Secretary of State Charlotte Fields' campaign, not her prospective presidency.
Levine's film and screenwriter Dan Sterling's script see events mostly through the eyes of gonzo journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), whose political conviction is so total that words like "discretion" and "compromise" are obscenities. His dedication, bordering on fanaticism, is largely due to his youthful infatuation with his babysitter from next door, a girl who was highly committed even as a teenager, and none other than the now Secretary Fields (Charlize Theron). A chance meeting results in Fred being hired as a speechwriter for presidential candidate Charlotte. Will their renewed relationship, after 25 years, also result in romance?
The inclination is to say, "No." How could the sophisticated and world-wise Charlotte possibly be attracted to a scruffy nebbish like Fred? If she weren't, there would be no film, but can they overcome their differences and stay together? One might characterize their situation as emblematic of the lack of cohesion among people of the same political party — those willing to meet the loyal opposition halfway and those unwilling to give an inch.
Theron and Rogen are audience favorites, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have the proper chemistry. I was actually more entertained by co-stars June Diane Raphael (TV's Grace and Frankie) as Charlotte's stern press manager, who sees Fred as a campaign liability, and O'Shea Jackson, Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) as Fred's supportive best friend, who has a big revelation for Fred during the film. Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) is on hand as the outgoing President Chambers, as is Alexander Skarsgård (Hold the Dark) as a hunky Canadian Prime Minister who has his own designs on Charlotte, and Andy Serkis (Black Panther) as a thinly disguised Rupert Murdoch.
The film, struggling to stay even-keeled, is moderately enjoyable, nothing more or less than you might expect, until about the halfway point, when Charlotte, depressed over a presidential repudiation, asks Fred to take her out on the town in Paris. Champagne and other substances flow freely, until Charlotte is picked up by the Secret Service to oversee the rescue of an American held hostage by terrorists. The trouble is, she's completely snockered.
I can suspend a lot of my disbelief in movies. I can make myself believe that Charlize Theron could fall madly in love with Seth Rogen. I can make myself believe that superheroes can fly and fight purple titans from across the galaxy. This scene, however, is so implausible, depicting a situation that I don't believe can be played for laughs, that I was unable to recover for the rest of the movie. Then the last-act main crisis, which is not necessarily implausible, is still so out of left field that I can only characterize it as, "There's something about Seth ..."
Theron and Rogen will emerge unscathed. Like I said, audiences love 'em. Nevertheless, the Paris scene and the later crisis focus attention on what may be the film's biggest implausibility. Charlotte's boss, President Chambers, is a Fox News-beloved Republican. Charlotte is a tree-hugging liberal Democrat. In what universe did he pick her as his Secretary of State? Their profound differences in philosophy are never addressed, which convinces me there was no clear vision for this film.
Like Fred Flarsky believes, you've got to take a stand, and The Long Shot doesn’t.