Review: 'Going the Distance' Makes Real Dating Issues Funny
by Jeremy Kirk
September 6, 2010
As the classic Cake song, "The Distance", goes: "She's all alone, all alone in her time of need." Going the Distance, the new romantic comedy starring (real-life couple) Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, reflects the same sense of loneliness. It takes a very real and very common problem found in modern relationships, a problem that is both aided and instigated by the connective nature of the world, and builds a story around it that is at times both touching and funny. It is a long way from ideal, but, much like the romance we are witnessing in it, we make do with what we get. And we could definitely get a whole lot worse…
Barrymore plays Erin, a journalist student from San Francisco who is living in New York as an intern. Long plays Garrett, an employee at a New York record label who has just gone through a sudden break-up. The two meet. They instantly click. However, they realize an impending roadblock in their relationship. Erin's internship is nearing its end, and she will have to move back to San Francisco. When the day comes, rather than saying their goodbyes, the two decide to make a go of it, to fight through the thousands of miles separating them and work towards making a long distance relationship seem much closer than it really is.
Directed by Nanette Burstein, Going the Distance is a funny story filled with believable characters going through genuine problems. The one, main issue with the film, one we notice right off the bat, is in the execution. Being a documentary film maker, Burstein has a problem letting go of the hand-held or grainy digital nature techniques she has come to embrace. Unfortunately, she doesn't choose between that and the smooth technique of modern, Hollywood film-making. The film ends up bouncing back and forth between techniques, giving us a little grit and grime when it should probably stay focused on the slickness the narrative calls for. One scene in particular has Erin and Garrett eating at an outside restaurant, and the grain put in place is so jarring, we have a tough time focusing on the comedy that is attempting to ensue.
One thing Burstein and screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe do well is in finding a nice balance between the two characters throughout. We get just as much of Erin's side of the story as we do Garrett's, and, even though there are solutions to the problems they are facing, we understand the difficulties they both face in taking the leap forward.
Some of the secondary characters work extremely well. Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day play Garrett's best friends to a perfect precision. Jim Gaffigan plays Erin's brother-in-law, and he has some of most comical lines of the movie. Some other secondary characters, however, aren't as genuine or welcome. Christina Applegate, it seems, is destined to forever be playing the sidekick/sister to the lead in these romantic comedies, and the "if you hurt her, I'll castrate you" speech she has to deliver to Garrett is about as clichéd as you can get.
Fortunately, as good or as bad as they are here, the secondary characters are never able to push aside the warmth and levity brought about by the two leads. Barrymore and Long were a real couple during the shooting, and their affection comes through with minimal effort. They are both incredibly funny on their own as much as when they are together, and the chemistry between them is dead-on. It may be a little too soon to refer to them as a potential replacement for Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan for a more modern generation, but I'd be lying if I said the thought didn't enter my mind while watching this film.
Going the Distance may not be a raucous comedy. The laughs aren't exactly a mile a minute here, but what works feels incredibly honest and serve the notion of the very real problem found in the film's narrative well. It's a film about two people who set themselves well onto the path of their life before finding their true love. It's a story about having to make that leap for better or for worse and setting your own dreams aside for just a moment. It's just a fortunate surprise to be able to laugh a bit while you're adjusting to that new path.
Jeremy's Rating: 7.5 out of 10