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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

May 13, 2019


THE BASIC formula used in ‘Long Shot’ is something we’ve seen before in other romcoms. It’s about a mismatched pair of couple falling in love, like in “Notting Hill”, about a big Hollywood movie star who falls for a simple ordinary bookseller. Other examples are “Maid in Manhattan” about a senator and a chambermaid and “Pretty Woman” about a hotshot businessman and a hooker.

We’ve always liked Charlize Theron since we first saw her looking luminously lovely in ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ with Keanu Reeves in 1997 and ‘Mighty Joe Young’ with the late Bill Paxton in 1998. Since then, she has won the Oscar uglifying herself in “Monster” and we believe she should have also been nominated again in “Max Max Fury Road” as Furiosa. She was also deglamorized as “Atomic Blonde”, but now, she’s back to her dazzlingly appealing and sophisticated self in “Long Shot” playing Charlotte Field, the very smart U.S. secretary of state.

The other party in this odd couple romance is Seth Rogen as Fred Flarsky, a very opinionated but principled investigative journalist who just quit his job after he learned that the paper he’s working for has been acquired by shadowy businessman Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis who played Gollum). To cheer him up, his friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson, son of rapper Ice Cube), takes him to a fundraising party where Charlotte is a special guest.

In a flashback scene, we see him several years ago when he was 13 years old, secretly in love with his 16-year old babysitter, who happens to be Charlotte. Now, they meet again, right after he just lost his job, in a party where the Boyz II Men from the 90s are performing. Charlotte recognizes him and he’s suprised when she later summons him and offers him to be her speech writer who joins her while she goes on a world tour. And yes, they even get to Manila, but it looks like the scenes supposed to have been shot here are all “daya”.

A Charlize and Seth romance seems really far fetched. At least, in “Notting Hill”, Julia Robert falls for a heartthrob like Hugh Grant. Seth is fat, looks more of a nerd but, in fairness to him and Charlize, they manage to generate some crazy but engaging chemistry and make their “suntok sa buwan” romance quite convincing with the help of ribald jokes and bawdy humor. By the time we see them dancing to Roxette’s ‘It Must Have Been Love’ in Argentina, their unlikely romance comes off as sweet and charming.

Of course, the script takes a lot of liberty that borders on the implausible. In one scene, Charlize as secretary of state conducts an international hostage negotiation and even talks down to the kidnapper while she’s high on drugs, something that will not be allowed in real life situations. But ‘Long Shot’ does it by making a lot of valid observations about a lot of vital issues, like the seemingly incestuous relationship between politics and big business, and also the media; the importance of imaging to shape a candidate’s reputation; and the sexist pressure women face at work. And the movie also takes a potshot on a lot of things that do hit their targets, including Fox News, Jennifer Aniston, etc.

There’s also a raunchy, hilarious cum shot that will remind you of Ben Stiller in “There’s Something About Mary”. But something even more surprisingly funny is when Charlize tells Seth precisely what kind of sexual position she wants from him and he freaks out. It’s to Charlize’s credit that she finds the honesty, as well as the comedy, in that moment. We can’t think of any other movie that deals with this kind of unconventional scene, where the heroine is so open about her likes, as effectively.

The movie works because of the clever and sharply written script that really gets things right. The obstacles to the relationship of the leads credibly spring from their characters (Charlize’s ambition to be president, Seth’s steadfast principles) and not just from sheer plot mechanics. The movie also has a great supporting cast who all get to shine, like June Diane Raphael as Charlize’s chief of staff named Maggie (who has a surprising secret dalliance with her own Asian assistant, Ravi Patel), Alexander Skaarsgard as the goodlooking Canadian prime minister with whom Charlize flirts with for media mileage, Bob Odenkirk as the Golden Globe-winning U.S. President Chambers who wants to leave the White House to go back into showbiz where he started.

The title is so apt as it’s truly a long shot for Charlize to be the first woman president, and it’s an even longer shot that Seth will be the first male First Lady (ha ha ha!). The feel good ending is truly wish fulfillment, but Charlize and Seth manage to make you feel you can buy the whole thing without too many grudges.

Director Jonathan Levine makes it all palatable by making you root for the odd couple while they navigate a daunting contemporary political landscape that echoes the scandal involving Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, whose affair with a news anchor was exposed by the National Inquirer. This is Levine’s third movie with Seth after the similarly charming romcom, “50/50”, and the Christmas movie, “The Night Before”, where Seth appears with Joseph Gordon Levitt in both flicks. And it’s the best among them.