SXSW 2019 – Review: LONG SHOT Is Funny, But Not Quite Satirical Enough

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Charlotte Fields (CHARLIZE THERON) and Fred Flarsky (SETH ROGEN) in LONG SHOT. Photo Credit: Hector Alvarez.

Long Shot is a new comedy film directed by Jonathan Levine and starring Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron. The movie tells the story of a controversial journalist who reunites with his first crush, now the Secretary of State, when she hires him to be her speech writer for her upcoming Presidential campaign. It made its debut at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

The biggest issue with this film is that it is extremely formulaic, and that formula doesn’t necessarily go along with the intended political satire. Although raunchy political satire is a thing, this movie seems to think that it is more intelligent than it actually is. Instead, it is a Seth Rogen comedy that just happens to be set in the world of politics rather than the world of the middle-class American. The “twists” are predictable and frustrating, particularly those that involve raunchy humor.

The biggest success of the film is the character development. Although both leads, an aggressive journalist and a career politician, should be annoying and unsympathetic, the movie manages to make both of them feel very compelling. The relationship between the two of them is interesting and sympathetic because secondary characters in the film keep telling the leads (and by extension, the audience) that the relationship is doomed.

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Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) and Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) in LONG SHOT.

Most of the movie manages to be very funny, although it lacks the wit that would have made this into a great political satire. The funniest parts of the film are those which are mildly raunchy and very embarrassing. The moments that are the most over-the-top often fell flat, particularly towards the end of the movie when one of them is used as a major plot point.

For the most part, the pacing was fine, but it did begin to drag towards the end. The film could have cut out ten to fifteen minutes in the second act and would have been much more briskly-paced and impressive. The length between the jokes is mostly good, although as the movie does begin to get sappy and melodramatic, the pace of the comedy slows down and the film is far less involving.

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Tom (RAVI PATEL), Maggie (JUNE DIANE RAPHAEL), Fred Flarsky (SETH ROGEN), and Charlotte Fields (CHARLIZE THERON) in LONG SHOT. Photo Credit: Philippe Bossé.

The actors are definitely the best part of this movie although they still feel like they are playing versions of themselves. For example, Seth Rogen doesn’t become the character, it feels like he is making the character into him. Charlize Theron still feels like herself. Bob Odenkirk definitely feels like he is playing himself. They are all funny, and the chemistry between cast members is great, so it works well nonetheless.

In technical terms, the film feels somewhat safe. There wasn’t a whole lot of flash or flair in the execution, and that is disappointing given the fact that the movie is trying to establish itself as a highbrow-style comedy. It isn’t bad — it just isn’t special in any way. The area in which the film did have a clear win, though, was its soundtrack, which is absolutely phenomenal and filled with great jams.

Overall, Long Shot was a solid but not spectacular Seth Rogen comedy. The chemistry between cast members is great, and there are some really funny moments, but the movie doesn’t quite accomplish what it had been hoping to do.

Long Shot debuted at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival. It opens in theaters on May 3.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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