This article contains spoilers for “Long Shot.”
For most of its two hours, “Long Shot” follows the usual tropes for a movie centered on a political character.
In the movie, which chronicles the love story between the elegant secretary of state and presidential contender Charlotte Fields (Charlize Theron) and the windbreaker-wearing, sloppy, stubborn journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), we don’t hear any mention of party, or the terms “liberal” or “conservative.”
But, as is typical for Hollywood, the main character’s top cause is a lefty cause: a giant environmental initiative. And the only person opposed to the initiative is, also typically, a greedy businessman and all-around terrible human being only after his own self-interest.
The movie gives zero suggestion that someone might do their research and, in good faith, come to oppose a comprehensive environmental initiative—not out of greed or hatred of nature.
Up to this point, the movie matches what we expect from the movies on politics.
Then something extraordinary occurs.
Hollywood allows a fun, endearing African-American character … to come out as a Republican.
And then it allows the liberal journalist character to realize he’s the bad guy, that his own judgmental attitude and arrogance has made his best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) feel that he can never be true to who he really is around him.
(Yes, I nearly fell out of my chair.)
It’s clear from the get-go that Lance is—and always has been—there for Fred.
When Fred quits his job as a reporter—after finding out a corrupt business tycoon has bought the news outlet that employed him—Lance immediately ditches his own job to engage in a night of revelry with his friend to cheer him up. He’s also there to brighten Fred’s mood later, encouraging him with old axioms along the lines of “it’s important to pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “hard work pays off.”
But when Fred breaks up with Charlotte because he’s frustrated at her compromises on the environmental initiative, Lance decides it’s time Fred learns some lessons about tolerance.
That’s when the big Republican reveal happens.
Lance tells Fred he’s never felt comfortable being honest with him about being Republican, or about believing in God—because he knew his friend would judge him. It’s a comedic scene, played for laughs—Seth Rogen is bombastic and wide-eyed in his horror, as his liberal journalist character discovers that his friend is praying for him, and that the cross Lance wears was no, not a cultural thing (and yes, believing that it was a cultural thing does make Fred the racist one), and that yes, those messages about hard work that resonated so deeply with Fred were coming from a conservative perspective.
It’s hilarious—and hopeful.
Jackson’s character is likable—and in this scene, regardless of your political beliefs, you want to root for him and not for the judgmental, small-minded Fred Flarsky.
It’s a sympathetic portrayal of a situation too many conservatives find themselves in these days: feeling that they can’t be honest about their beliefs on a whole host of issues because even friends won’t be tolerant.
The data shows it’s credible conservatives feel that way.
A 2017 Pew Research Center poll found that 35% of those who were Democrat or leaned Democrat thought that a friend voting for Donald Trump would put a strain on their friendship. (Among liberal Democrats, just under half—47%—thought it would strain the friendship.) By contrast, only 13% of Republicans or those who lean Republican thought the same when it came to a friend voting for Hillary Clinton.
In 2016, a Public Religion Research Institute poll found that “nearly one-quarter (24%) of Democrats say they blocked, unfriended, or stopped following someone on social media after the election because of their political posts on social media.” But it was a different story on the right: “Fewer than one in ten Republicans (9%) and independents (9%) report eliminating people from their social media circle.”
But while losing friends over politics is a common story for conservatives, it’s not one that I can recall Hollywood ever acknowledging.
Of course, this isn’t to say “Long Shot” is a conservative movie—or even one I’d necessarily recommend. The sweet love story is unfortunately, and unnecessarily, marred by constant crude comments and scenes. It’s a little weird, in our #MeToo era, to see a female boss hit on her male subordinate—without even a cursory consideration of whether she just exploited power dynamics for sexual purposes. (Girl power doesn’t mean women can do the same bad things men do.)
And overall, by casting all opposition to the environmental initiative as driven by greed, the film perpetuates the myth that it’s only because of money that people have concerns about environmental initiatives.
But if you’re a fan of romantic comedies (#guilty), this is an often delightful one that takes the extra step of encouraging true tolerance.
Now, if Hollywood could just start practicing what “Long Shot” preaches.