A Fun and Raunchy Ride
By Amy Nicholson
Long-distance relationships have always been a true test of love, and in the modern age of cell phones and Skype and occasionally cheap air travel, it’s never been easier to keep the flame burning from afar.
The new romantic comedy Going the Distance delves into the complications involved when two people are forced to be as far away from each other as they can get in the United States, with Erin (Drew Barrymore) living in San Francisco and Garrett (Justin Long) making his home in Manhattan.
The two meet up in a New York City bar, where Garrett has gone with his best buddies Box (Jason Sudeikis of SNL) and Dan (Charlie Day) to drink away the memories of his latest botched relationship. Garrett has just been dumped that night by the latest in a never-ending string of girlfriends who criticize him for his lack of commitment.
But, despite the pain, he can’t help clicking instantly with Erin. The two have what they think is just a bong-fueled one-night stand until she reveals the next morning that she’s only in NYC for six more weeks on a newspaper reporting internship.
They are too attracted to each other to leave things as a one-time fling, but both are leery of a serious relationship due to the time constraint involved. So they agree to keep seeing each other, only without getting too serious. Of course, they fall madly in love and throw themselves into the Herculean effort of making long-distance love work, even when their lack of funds often gets in the way of even being able to visit one another.
Add in the profanely witty and very opinionated friends of Garrett, and the concerned sarcasm of Erin’s married older sister Corinne (Christina Applegate), and it seems everyone has a say in the couple’s success or failure. And it’s that clever yet often highly salacious commentary that forces Garrett and Erin to realize they have to stand or fall on deciding whether what they have is true love.
It may sound like that’s the entire plot, but you’d be wrong on a couple of levels. First, since Going is a romantic comedy, it’s nearly impossible not to figure out the formula of how things unfold. What matters in a movie like this is whether you laugh at the lines, care about the characters and enjoy the chemistry between the actors. On those levels, this movie is a winner.
Barrymore and Long are a famously on-again off-again couple in real life who break up and make up enough to confuse even the paparazzi. But their relationship onscreen, whether in humorously sexy hookups or heartfelt romantic moments, is clearly powered by the fireworks off-screen.
The film’s casting directors have chosen their supporting cast wisely. Applegate, Sudeikis and Day all have plenty of moments to shine as well. Comedian Jim Gaffigan also pulls off some hilarious moments as Applegate’s husband.
The one weakness about the movie on a secular level is that there’s almost no other plot besides the romantic machinations of fighting to keep love alive. The movie leaps back and forth from coast to coast as the characters try to make it work, to a degree that some might find exasperating if they can’t immerse themselves in the rules of the romcom. But at the screening I attended, the film’s incredibly heavy yet realistic use of dirty banter between friends kept the audience rolling with laughter, so the plot limitations will likely be overridden by the film’s high laugh ratio. On that front, director Nanette Burstein (an Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker making her fiction-film debut) and writer Geoff LaTulippe (making his debut) should be proud.
What it comes down to is, if you like the films of Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up), you’ll want to go the distance with this film. If you’re easily offended by raunchy dialogue, though, you’ll probably want to drive past the theater.