Film & Television

‘Long Shot’: Beauty and the Beast Go to Washington

“Hail to the chief”? How about “Hail to the chieftess.”

Female presidents of the United States may be in short supply (or, sadly, in no supply) in the real world, but they’ve become surprisingly common on screens big and small. Here’s a representative, but by no means complete, list: Presidents Julia Mansfield (Patty Duke, Hail to the Chief), Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis, Commander in Chief); Constance Payne (State of Affairs); Elizabeth Lanford (Sela Ward, Independence Day: Resurgence); Olivia Marsdin (Lynda Carter, Supergirl); Melly Grant (Bellamy Young, Scandal); and the multiple Emmy-winning roles of Presidents Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep) and Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones, 24). Most recently, Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Thea Leoni, Madam Secretary) announced her candidacy in this season’s final episode.

In her ambitious 2011 film Miss Representation, documentarian Jennifer Siebel Newsom made a compelling and powerful point. The ambitions of girls depend upon what they believe is possible, and what they believe is possible depends upon what they’re exposed to in the media. “You can’t be it, if you don’t see it.” If that’s the case, and based on Hollywood’s enthusiasm for lady leaders of the free world, we should be seeing record numbers of female candidates in the decades to come.

This opens up entertainment possibilities (dramatic or comedic) for a new stock character: the first gentleman. Picturing said spouse and helpmate, one might envision a George Clooney, a Denzel Washington, a Héctor Elizondo — someone elegant, someone dashing, someone who looks good in a tux. Chances are, you wouldn’t immediately think of Seth Rogan. In fact, you would probably think of him as a long shot. Especially if you imagine him at the side of the statuesque and downright gorgeous Charlize Theron.

This, in a nutshell, is the premise of Long Shot, the new romantic comedy directed by Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies and 50/50) and written by Liz Hannah (The Post) and Dan Sterling (The Interview).

Theron plays Charlotte Field, current Secretary of State and aspiring President. She is described as the most powerful woman in the world, brokering trade agreements and world peace in between open-eyed “micronaps” and choreographed for the camera “dates” with the Canadian Prime Minister (Alexander Skarsgård). She is beautiful and brilliant. In fact, when Rogan’s Fred Flarskey admits to his best friend, Lance (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.) that he kind of knows her, Lance is duly incredulous. “You kind of know Charlotte Field? It’s kind of like knowing a mermaid!”

Fred’s history with Charlotte is an embarrassing one (if you’re familiar with Rogan’s body of work, you’ll predict some of the movie’s more embarrassing moments, many of which involve a penis, masturbation, or both). Charlotte was an earnest and ambitious high school student, babysitting for the younger Fred, who had trouble controlling his adolescent adulation, middle school hormones, and obvious “boner.” Years later, Fred is an ultra-liberal investigative reporter for a scrappy Brooklyn-based alternative newspaper. In a funny early scene, he infiltrates a neo-Nazi organization, half-heartedly heiling Hitler and hesitating only a moment before allowing the group to give him a swastika tattoo. Midway through, he’s exposed as a journalist and — worse — a Jew. He escapes relatively unscathed, only to quit his job when he learns that the paper has been acquired by Murdoch-esque media mogul Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis). Fred has his standards, but needs a new job.

Meanwhile, Charlotte has convinced sitting President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk as a former television actor who wants to parlay his time in the White House into a movie career) to endorse her. Along with her aides Tom (Ravi Patel) and Maggie (scene stealer June Diane Raphael from Netflix’s Grace and Frankie), she consults a PR team (led by Lisa Kudrow, who deserved more screen time) and hears mostly good news. In their research, Charlotte is liked and respected, but she lacks a sense of humor and has a wonky wave. She’ll have to work on the wave herself, but she needs a new speechwriter stat. Here then, is the rom-com’s “meet cute,” although in this case it’s a “meet again cute.” Charlotte hires Fred and he accompanies her on a world tour, in which she must convince 100 other nations to join her in the fight to protect the environment’s “seas, trees, and bees,” while setting the stage for her run at the presidency.

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