Nanette Burstein’s Going the Distance features the graduation of Justin Long from gawky supporting actor to gawky lead actor, and Drew Barrymore from cutesy rom-com star to cutesy rom-com star with a filthy mouth. Sure, they’re baby steps, but steps nonetheless. You can probably count the number of game-changing romantic comedies on two hands (with one hand reserved solely for super-producer Judd Apatow’s stable of titles). Going The Distance is not one of them, but it tries, which is more than can be said for most of the genre’s lazy entries.
Saying that, Going the Distance tries a little too hard. It too often mistakes raunchy talk for emotional honesty. Apatow, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel, much like Kevin Smith and even Woody Allen before them, have figured out how to make their characters talk the way regular people do – in all their foul-mouthed glory. That’s simply the price you pay for achieving conversational authenticity. Screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe goes straight for the smut. Burstein, a documentarian making her narrative debut, does her best to make the proceedings seem authentic in spite of the film’s screenplay. The cast similarly attempt to make LaTulippe’s words seem natural. But I’ll admit, it’s rather jarring to hear certain words come out of Barrymore’s mouth. She’s Gertie!
Justin Long is Garrett, a low-level record company executive who is tasked with babysitting “the new Jonas Brothers”. He can’t hold down a steady relationship, and his two best friends are – to put it frankly – idiots. While drowning his sorrows at the local bar, he meets another thirty-something incapable of escaping their twenty-something adolescence. Her name is Erin (Barrymore), and she works in a similarly struggling industry – newspaper journalism. The two of them hit it off immediately, assisted by their mutual love of the arcade game Centipede, pot, and the Top Gun soundtrack. She’s only in town for six weeks, so they agree to a short-term relationship. After all, neither have had much luck in the love department. Why would this be any different? But when the six weeks are over, they realise this time it is different, and agree to a long-distance relationship. Obviously, conflict and hijinks ensue.
There is really not much more to say. Burstein keeps the film zipping along, and injects some of her trademark style into it. Long and Barrymore are pleasant enough as the leads, although they’re overshadowed by the hilarious Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis (as Garrett’s idiot friends). If you’re a fan of romantic comedies (and aren’t averse to some blue material) Going The Distance should be right up your alley. And after a year of “romcoms” that have included Killers and Sex and the City 2, we shouldn’t be picky.