As a society, it is staggering to see how far America still has to go when it comes to gender equality in the workforce, and even when it comes to fairness in the cult of personality that is our political system. No matter how qualified a politician truly is, female candidates face much more unrealistic scrutiny from both the public and their parties while running for higher office. This is a central point that the brand-new film “Long Shot,” starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, puts into its crosshairs. And while this is a deeply ingrained problem in our country’s DNA, the film skewers it to perfection, creating one of the most poignant and honest satires to come out of a major film studio in recent memory.
Theron stars as Charlotte Field, U.S. Secretary of State, who is keeping the ship afloat under a bumbling ex-B-list TV star President Chambers, played with idiotic charm by Bob Odenkirk, who has fooled the public into believing he would be fit for the job after playing the commander in chief on TV. After a popular first term, Chambers decides that he has had enough of the job and sees this as the perfect opportunity to quit while he is ahead and make the next logical move in his career (a transition into film). With this decision, he gives his endorsement to Field for her run for president.
Once she hears the announcement, her team works tirelessly to improve her numbers with the public in a number of different areas including her awkward wave, which resembles an animatronic robot’s movements as it is running low on electricity. While at a fundraiser, Field meets up with an old childhood friend, a recently out-of-work journalist named Fred Flarsky, played by Seth Rogen. Taken by his exuberance and willingness to speak truth to power, Field hires him on her press tour as a speechwriter. As the tour goes on, their relationship becomes a little more than professional.
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While this plan to gain more “likability” should be inconsequential given her sterling record as a public official, this kind of life under a microscopic for women of a certain stature is exactly the point that the film tries to address.
“It’s such an easy target and such a valid target that once you unlock that area of joke-telling, you really have unlimited potential for jokes,” says the film’s director, Jonathan Levine. “It kind of combines these two great things that we love: it’s a humorous way to hold up a mirror to ourselves, and it’s easy because it’s such low-hanging fruit in our society that it was a great place to find humor. Whenever you have those two things — an opportunity to look smart and an easy way to access them — that’s a nice thing in a comedy, especially when you are balancing so many different things.”
Jonathan Levine, director. LIONSGATE
Levine was thrilled at the chance to show how insane it is that this kind of standard exists in our society, but has also been blown away by how female audiences have reacted during advance screenings of the film. The message is universal whether you are in politics or not.
“It was also really important for her [Field’s] story to show the insane endemic cultural misogyny that she’s up against every day,” Levine explains. “I think the thing about it is, it doesn’t just apply to politics. When we screen this, women of all walks of life see themselves in this character’s journey… the depth of it was quite eye-opening.”
Apart from the powerful social message the film so successfully hammers home, it also delivers on some of the best pure gut-busting laughs you are bound to see in theaters this summer. Most notably, a scene in which Field and Flarksy have been out clubbing all night on molly when she is suddenly called in for a tense hostage negotiation. Without any spoilers, it is a scene that is destined to be a classic.
What makes “Long Shot” so enjoyable is that its relevance to our current moment only heightens each laugh. Even though the plane might be on fire, satire done this well only helps to cushion the landing.
“Whenever you can deal with identity politics this way, it really is fertile ground for comedy,” says Levine. “There’s no laugh quite like the laugh of recognition.”
“Long Shot” also stars O’Shea Jackson Jr. and June Diane Raphael and hits theaters all over the world on Friday.