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  Long Shot The Other Half
Year: 2019
Director: Jonathan Levine
Stars: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Ravi Patel, Bob Odenkirk, Andy Serkis, Randall Park, Tristan D. Lalla, Alexander Skarsgård, Aladeen Tawfeek, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, Shawn Stockman, Isla Dowling, Lisa Kudrow
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is an investigative journalist with left-wing leanings who gets up to such antics as exposing neo-Nazis in his articles. He is completely ethical and uncompromising, therefore when he gets the news from his boss that their newspaper is to be bought by the Wembley corporation, one which goes against everything he stands for politically thanks to their corrupting influence on the world, he knows he has to make a stand, and resigns. This leaves him without a job, and indeed, without money, so he starts to flounder - but what if there were a figurative angel who could look out for him and get him a proper job with all the integrity they could muster?

If that comes across as the cue for a wish fulfilment comedy, then bear in mind Long Shot was a romantic comedy, where such twinkly-eyed plotting was par for the course. But it was not your conventional romcom, for there was an element of politics than seemed to put audiences around the world off, they did not want to be reminded of realistic issues in their escapism, they would rather see some Cinderella be whisked off her feet by some Prince Charming in whatever context the age-old premise was retooled for. That was except for Britain, where the film did three times as well as the nearest other country's box office results, suggesting the Brits were responding.

Definitely where the other markets were not: we were being told that star names could no longer open films to guaranteed blockbuster success, not on their own anyway, and brands were where the gold in movie profits lay, so while they were popular, it was perhaps not the attraction of Rogen and his co-star Charlize Theron that made it a hit in this part of the globe. Still, they would not have hurt its prospects, and seeing Theron especially let her hair down and be genuinely funny in a role that had her intelligence be an asset was one reason why this succeeded as a comedy far better than many a contemporary romcom, albeit in a genre that had run out of steam in the twenty-tens.

What one suspects was the actual draw for Brits was precisely what had turned so many others off abroad: the politics. Long Shot could have been an awkward mishmash of conflicting elements, but in truth its politics, while idealistic as any romance seen on the big screen could be, struck a chord in a nation which was finding the daily news reports about their authorities trying and failing to run the country both wearisome and antagonistic. Therefore you could understand why a film mining humour out of that, both sharp-edged and wacky, would go down so well: the climate was perfect for it in a way that curiously it was not in the project's native United States, which was suffering no less divisive arguments over how to carry on. Helping was that Theron's Secretary of State character who hires Flarsky was pushing an environmental agenda, highly topical.

This was at heart an odd couple romance, but made great play of making sure we knew that couple were existing on the same page on more than they differed. The backstory was Theron's Charlotte Field, who is planning to be the first woman President, used to babysit the lovestruck Fred, and now they have met again he rekindles her idealism and she, well, she gives him security, so it didn't matter that he was a schlubby guy and she had to project an image of perfection lest the media, and social media, tear her apart, they had a lot in common. Her press secretary (June Diane Raphael) spends the whole movie trying to dissuade her boss from pursuing the relationship that simply feels right to Charlotte in a way that is so unconventional it makes you ponder how many real life bonds have been quashed by self-consciousness, not even on this scale.

That tension between public and private life left an interesting dilemma that was oddly relatable, notably when Fred effectively becomes a victim of potential humiliation via a variation on revenge porn - not instigated by Charlotte, but by the nasty media empire trying to rule the world by proxy (no prizes for guessing who a heavily made-up Andy Serkis had been inspired by when playing his mogul character). The conclusion that this was as big a deal as the victim made it was a provocative one, sort of an "own your shame" message that rendered it a positive if you can weather the storm, and as applicable to the massively judgemental atmosphere the internet had created as it was to the problems women like Charlotte have in trying to forge a career in power. But more than that, Long Shot was really funny, with stellar support for Theron and Rogen, particularly O'Shea Jackson showing comic chops as Fred's best pal from his college days, so little wonder it became a discovery for many who did not expect to enjoy it as much as they did. This might come across like a relic in decades to come, but in a period when Hollywood was staying away from politics in their output, goodness was this refreshing. Music by Marco Beltrami and Miles Hankins.

[There are tons of extras on Lionsgate's DVD, deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews, you name it.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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