Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a schlubby, mildly irresponsible beardo played by Seth Rogen manages to get an ambitious, beautiful woman to fall in love with him. Hijinks ensue. The problem with Long Shot is less that this is an already well-worn idea, or even that it’s an intrinsically sexist one. It’s that the film thoughtlessly and lazily addresses cliched rom-com sexism, and so winds up reinforcing it instead. In this case, Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, ostensibly a firebrand journalist with a set of principles so strong he quits in protest when a conservative media conglomerate purchases his Brooklyn-based online magazine. That night, he meets Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), the youngest-ever Secretary of State — and coincidentally, once Fred’s teen babysitter and childhood crush. She hires him as a speechwriter for an upcoming Presidential run. Cue the aforementioned hijinks.
Long Shot thoughtlessly and lazily addresses cliched rom-com sexism, and so winds up reinforcing it instead.
Set aside the litany of exaggerations that pass for satire these days (an absurd recurring FOX News parody is particularly tin-eared), and the romance here is sweet and sincere. Rogen and Theron aren’t playing too far outside of their respective wheelhouses, but they have the chemistry of two actors who are truly trying to make each other laugh — and Flarsky’s attempts to get Field to loosen up a little, corny as they might be, are less about making her seem uptight than like someone who simply doesn’t have frequent opportunities to kick it. But although Long Shot pays a lot of lip service to Charlotte’s predicament as a woman at a pronounced and seriously unfair disadvantage in a deeply patriarchal field, Fred remains the more dynamic character, and it’s his decisions that largely drive the plot. It’s still the woman that has to make sacrifices for love; it’s still a man that gets to accept or decline a relationship. When people tell Fred he’s not good enough for Charlotte, it’s because they’re mean and hurtful; when they tell her he’s a liability to her campaign, they’re being pragmatic. In a rom-com gender flip, it’s Charlotte who has to make a big public speech explaining her love for this dork, but in this attempt to upend a well-known trope, Long Shot just winds up being another movie where a successful woman has to compromise for a man, making the film’s frequent pleas to “see things from both sides” seem even more hollow.