Title: Going the Distance
Directed By: Nanette Burstein
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate
You’d think it’d be nearly impossible to make a decent romantic comedy with all the genre garbage we get every year. Look at all the junk we’ve already suffered through in 2010: Leap Year, When in Rome, The Bounty Hunter, The Back-up Plan, Killers and more. What it comes down to is that we’ve basically seen it all before and it’s just not funny anymore. Now what we’re left with is exaggerated versions of those overused gags making them even less amusing and more annoying. However, Going the Distance takes a different approach. It may start with all those stereotypical genre elements, but rather than turn them into caricatures out of desperation for a laugh, the filmmakers take a more realistic approach and it works.
Where do you go to let loose after a bad day? A bar of course, and it just so happens that both Erin and Garrett (Drew Barrymore and Justin Long) suffered through some rough times on the same day, wound up at the same bar and have an affinity for the same Centipede machine. And so our love story begins. Garrett’s a new yorker working at a record company while Erin is only in town for the summer interning at a prestigious New York City newspaper. After sharing a magical night they examine the situation and come to the conclusion that the fling will last Erin’s remaining six weeks and then that’s that, but just before Erin hops on a plane home to San Francisco, the two decide they’ve got something that’s too good to end and opt to give the long distance thing a shot.
The effort starts out decently; they talk on the phone, do some video chatting, constantly text each other and Garrett flies out to San Francisco for Thanksgiving. However, it doesn’t take long for them to really feel the pressure of the many miles between them and they start to second guess each other’s faithfulness, consider forfeiting job opportunities to be together and get particularly lonely in the bedroom.
Going the Distance is nothing more than your standard romantic comedy, but what sets it apart from the lot is that it’s actually rather smart. First time screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe seems to really have a handle on the genre and knows where to put the clichés to use, but not in an overbearing manner. You’ve got the standard budding relationship montage, the gorgeous co-workers that could pose a threat and the snarky sidekicks, but that montage feels as genuine as I’d imagine Barrymore and Long’s real life relationship is and those secondary characters have much more to offer than banal advice.
Making the material even more appealing is the cast. Long and Barrymore make for fine leads and certainly have chemistry, but I still have a hard time accepting the duo as a couple – which is definitely not their fault. Both performances are sweet and they easily win your heart, but it’s the supporting cast that’s responsible for the film’s most memorable moments, particularly Christina Applegate. She plays Erin’s sister, a mother and a certified neat freak. She’s easily the funniest character in the film, but followed not too far behind by Garrett’s band of buddies played by Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day. Sudeikis is the sounder of the two and therefore doesn’t get as many laughs as Day, but still makes for a fantastic addition. As for Day, he requires a little getting used to, but his clueless yet lovable demeanor makes just about anything he says and does amusing.
One of the best parts of Going the Distance is how accurately the trouble with long distance relationships is portrayed. Of course it’s a much faster-paced and condensed version of reality, but director Nanette Burstein manages to squeeze just enough in to get a well-rounded look at the woes of long distance lovers. She also does a fantastic job at keeping the production simple, but spices things up now and then with necessary date reminders and cute graphics depicting the leads’ travel time.
All in all Going the Distance is really just more of the same, but far more thoughtful. Overused gags like a spray tan accident and cheesy dialogue are easily overlooked thanks to the reality of the situation. Burstein and LaTulippe don’t play this off as some goofy incident that’ll eventually blow over leaving our stars living happily ever after; Erin and Garrett’s issues are extremely valid, require a serious amount of consideration and not once is that belittled in order to get a cheap laugh. When a comedy can be enjoyable and hilarious and still have some depth, it’s an instant winner.
By Perri Nemiroff