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Long Shot

Year: 2019
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Dan Sterling/Liz Hannah
Cast: Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Bob Odenkirk, Andy Serkis, Randall Park, Alexander Skarsgård, Lisa Kudrow

Because of the premise it couldn't be anything too far from a broad comedy, but it could also have been something unfunny and stupid in lesser hands. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron's performances are serious and heartfelt enough to elevate it, and Jonathan Levine's direction from Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah's script both work because neither of them wink at the audience about how implausible it all is, believing wholeheartedly in the concept.

Rogen is shlubby (as always) journalist Fred, a muckraker who takes the rich and powerful to task without thought of consequences to his career, which come when the news website he works for is bought out by industrialist Parker Wembley (an unrecognisable Andy Serkis) and he's told to tone the anti-corporate rhetoric down. Instead, Fred quits in disgust, finding himself with nothing to do but hang out with his Wall Street-type best friend Lance (O'Shea Jackson Jr).

Bereft at what to do next with his life, Fred goes with Lance to a charity fundraiser at a swish apartment, also attended by the Secretary of State, Charlotte Field (Theron). We've already met Charlotte and learned how idealistic she is about the environment, and she senses her opportunity to make a real difference when the President (a priceless Bob Odenkirk), a blowhard who's more interesting in his forthcoming acting career, tells her he's not running for a second term and will endorse her instead.

The twist in the tail is that when she was a teenager, Charlotte used to babysit Fred, who's always harboured a secret crush on her. They recognise each other and talk a little, soon going their separate ways when her neverending political duty interrupts.

Fred then gets everyone's attention by falling spectacularly down the stairs, becoming a viral sensation, and when Charlotte remembers the way he talked about speaking truth to power, she looks up his old columns and decides to offer him a job as her speechwriter, helping sell her environmental reforms to colleagues and voters.

A fish out of water comedy ensues before the two give in to their feelings for each other (and much earlier than you expect, which is testament to how good the script is because they're both just as interesting afterwards), but tensions arise when Charlotte feels the inevitable pressure to curb her outspoken environmental protections to appease the corporate interests who'll make her path to the top smoother.

Fred hates that she's selling out and Charlotte secretly hates that she's doing it too, but she's trying to be realistic. The fact that it all ends with a very Hollywood happy ending after the third act dark turn with Charlotte deciding on a whim to be honest with everyone – including herself – and have it still make sense to the story and stay true to the characters is a deft trick of scriptwriting.

Rogen and Theron make a great double act. The comic talents they're individually good at are the perfect ingredients for a recipe that delicately balances both. In Fred's hands it's mugging slapstick full of profanity-laced visual gags, but Theron brings more of the poise and dignity you'd expect from a more dramatic telling of the same tale.

Not that she's not funny in herself, that is. Few other actresses who are also so spectacularly beautiful have such a sense of comic timing, instead of just being a mirror for stronger personalities bounce off. Just watch the scene when she negotiates a hostage release with her Palestinian counterpart in a top secret military facility while high on ecstasy and dressed like a concert-going teenager.

It's got a surprisingly solid sense of romance, great actors bringing great dialogue to life, and there's almost nothing not to enjoy.

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