After his liberal publication is bought by a conservative media conglomerate, Fred (Rogen) quits and charms his way into a job as speechwriter for Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Theron), who is running for president. The pair know each other from childhood when 16-year-old Charlotte babysat 13-year-old Fred. Charlotte's advisors are skeptical of Fred, a mildly loose cannon in a teal windbreaker, but Charlotte insists on employing him because market researchers told her she needs to be funnier. Fred follows Charlotte around the globe, and the two get to know each other again. Somehow, they manage to fall in love and no one can believe it. But their romance poses a problem when Charlotte's advisors tell her the optics of the couple “would destroy your entire career."
Fred is repeatedly described as smart, funny, and a good writer, but he's still seen as an appalling, impossible choice for the exceedingly graceful Charlotte. She dresses like Ivanka and he dresses like an aging Mac DeMarco fan. Is it their opposing fashion styles that make them such an ill match? Or the fact that he doesn't know how to mingle with the Canadian prime minister and she does? Or that he looks so Jewish and she looks so Aryan?
So much of the movie is focused on "the optics.” When Charlotte's bodyguard catches Fred sneaking out of her room, Fred says, "Could you maybe not tell anyone about this?" The guard replies, "They wouldn't believe me anyway."
The obsession with optics is part of a trend that excessively praises women and admonishes their boyfriends. It usually goes something like, "All women are perfect angels, and all their boyfriends are useless hideous slugs." It's an idea running throughout Long Shot that, on the surface, seems empowering in a #girlboss way, but ultimately serves no one. People are not bad or unlovable because of how they look, even men. There are equally as many bad men who dress well as there are good men who dress poorly. And the idea that all women are beautiful heroes, while well-meaning, is the same idea that excuses female politicians' abhorrent behavior under the guise of feminism.
None of this even touches on the confusing politics of the movie, which include Charlotte, an environmentalist, working under a Trump-like president aligned with a Rupert Murdoch-like mogul. Or the bizarre twist where Fred realizes he had no idea his best friend, who is Black, is a Republican. Or the biggest long shot of the whole movie: a sex scene where Charlotte has an orgasm after five seconds of penetration. Or the horrendous ending, which simultaneously involves Fred coming on his own face and Charlotte becoming president.
The real bummer is that Rogen and Theron actually have good chemistry, and there are some solid laughs. The structure too is a rare modern movie that is actually a romantic comedy, not just a comedy that has romance in it.
The pairing of these two — a slightly chubby man and a statuesque woman — has never, in the history of film and television, been unlikely. It truly happens all the time, including in many of Rogen’s movies. Neither Fred nor Seth Rogen are underdogs, no matter how much they want to be.