Going the Distance (2010) dir. Nanette Burnstein
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Jason Sudekis, Charlie Day, Christina Applegate
By Alan Bacchus
The long distance relationship is the hook of this romantic comedy, which moderately succeeds as a vehicle for then real life BF/GF Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. These supremely engaging and accessible leads are perfectly cast as boyfriend and girlfriend stuck on two different coasts trying to maintain some semblance of a relationship.
Garrett (Long) is a NY record exec and Erin (Barrymore) is an aspiring writer finishing an internship also living in New York. After Garrett gets dumped he meets Erin, hits it off, sleeps with her then debriefs and debates the activities with his uber-male roommates played by Charlie Day and Jason Sudekis. Unfortunately Erin is due to go to University on the West Coast. All signs lead to a doomed relationship, and despite their misgivings about continuing their relationship they are simply in love.
Visits every few months are momentary fits of bliss, but invariably temptation creeps in for both lovers and they soon finding themselves fighting to maintain their relationship against the odds of the 3000miles between them.
I can certainly sympathize with the frustration doing the ‘long distance thing', and the writer and director never strays from this core conundrum. Director Burnstein (a solid documentary director, now branching out into drama) adequately conveys the conflict between the emotional needs of her characters to be together and their mutal stubborness (and fear) of sacrificing their careers for a relationship. It’s a fundamental choice most of us continually face in our lives everyday, and this connection is not lost on us.
It’s refreshing to see actors like Justin Long in lead roles such as this. He’s extremely funny, but in a droll, relaxed way. His humour is understatated and doesn’t overwhelm the drama of the situations. He’s also a normal looking, relatable guy. As opposed to older beefcakes like Gerard Butler, or Matthew McConaughey who exist in some other kind of fantasy world of Hollywood stardom.
For good and bad, the film fits snugly into the rom-com template. The supporting characters act like the angel and devil both the shoulders of Garrett and Erin. SNL alum Jason Sudekis and Charlie Day are passably funny, but overwritten, over playing their comic relief roles too much. The wonderful Jim Gaffigan, on the other hand, is marvelous in his brief role as Erin’s emasculated brother-in-the-law. Christina Applegate’s comic chops serve the film well as Erin’s sister who’s by-the-numbers passionless marriage acts as a red flag for Erin to truely take the plunge with Garrett.
Missing is a memorable and creative finale (warning, some spoilers ahead...) After the lovers agree to call it off, we know they will eventually get back together, but it's dramatized in the denouement, like an added on scene at the end to provide closure. The actions of the characters which lead to their reunification happens off screen and over the course of a year long flash-forward when Garrett finds the impetus to leave his soul sucking job and move to San Francisco. And so at the end Garrett just ‘shows up’ like magic.
Going the Distance makes a decent Sunday rental when you’re hungover from a heavy night of drinking with the girlfriend and his or her girlfriend pals.
“Going the Distance” is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Warner Home Entertainment.