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3 reviews, 4 user ratings

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Going the Distance
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by Erik Childress

"Why Couldn't They Be Scott Pilgrim And Ramona?"
4 stars

There is breaking news in the world of studio-sponsored romantic comedies. Somebody not associated with Judd Apatow actually made a good one. Itís inevitable that his name is going to come up when discussing Going the Distance with its cavalcade of guy friends and reference-based humor, so letís just get it out of the way. Most definitely it is a compliment, and not a back-handed one in any way to director Nanette Burnstein, screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe and their cast trying to glom on to the latest trend. We need more films like those and like this that donít play games with its primary couple and actually tries to navigate through real-world human connections with characters who donít feel like pawns on the board of convention. Classic status be damned if we can just say ďBravoĒ to those sentiments a couple times a year. As chances are dim that we may see another romantic comedy as funny and as close to honest as this all year, we should celebrate Going the Distance while we have the chance.

On the birthday of his girlfriend, Garrett (Justin Long) made the mistake of not getting her a gift. Not because heís a jerk or he forgot. She told him not to. Who needs those kind of games anyway? She dumps him and he meets his pals, Box (Jason Sudeikis) and Dan (Charlie Day) at the bar. There he meets the ďERLĒ that has dogged him at the Centipede machine all this time. The "E" stands for Erin (Drew Barrymore), a 31 year-old intern at the New York Sentinel. After a bad day at work, she came to get drunk too. They have a good time and end up in bed together despite neither looking to jump into anything long term. Numbers are exchanged and the pair figure to enjoy each otherís company again. And again.

With her internship up in six weeks though, Erin is moving back in with her sister, Corinne (Christina Applegate) in San Francisco. Admitting they had a good go of it, he nevertheless must run her down at the airport to pledge they give the long distance relationship a shot. Neither could be happier. Things get off to a fine start. Constant contact and a visit every few months keep the fires burning. The mind canít help but wondering though what could be if they just occupied space in the same city and who might be the shoulder to cry on where the other is not available. Erinís options include Corinne who is naturally cautious about Garrettís extracurriculars back in the Big Apple and had a less than fortuitous first impression left on her dining room table. Thereís also the hunky European bartender that Garrett canít help but notice Erin works with.

One thing to appreciate about Going the Distance is the way it sidesteps those traps. Itís characters, even at their most vulnerable moments, are smart enough to make the right move instead of creating the obvious third act conflicts. It does it so nicely too that the filmís only real bad scene (aside from a rather grotesque moment to cut-to-black) where Garrett overreacts to the news of a job offer feels precisely like those false, overwrought moments that it was doing so well to avoid. LaTulippe has an advantage in telling this story in the modern age when texting and video conferencing makes lengthy stretches apart far more feasible. These characters don't just mope around and get lonely in their time apart. They get horny and not afraid to admit it, leading to what could have been a standard phone sex gag and instead is turned into a really funny breakdown of dissecting conflicting fantasies.

Around the time that He's Just Not That Into You came out, I began touting that Justin Long could soon make a credible romantic lead. He seemed to be the one character in that fantasy (preaching reality) to grasp the lunacy of other's behavior and took hold of the film whenever he was on screen. In the interim he has had to play the guy dealing with girlfriends headed into the netherworld (Drag Me To Hell, After.Life) but Going the Distance gives him the opportunity to carry a film with the same kind of smart aleck humor that has given Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd their current runs. Not often can a comedy or an actor find a way to bookend Nazi jokes and make it hysterically funny; nor can they find an actress to keep up. Drew Barrymore is naturally adorable and instantly likable on screen, but it's hard to think up a role that has allowed her to be as funny as her male co-star, let alone one that wasn't a spoke in a larger gimmick. If Long and Barrymore could have replaced the so-called romantic leads in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, we may have believed in a world where a guy would find seven evil exes for her hand. At least Barrymore would smile at you.

Nanette Burstein's previous venture, American Teen, was a love-it-or-hate-it documentary following the final year of high school for five midwest students. Going the Distance may be her first attempt at fiction, but she has already honed a knack for narrative and this film never gets too bogged down in montages or melodramatic bridges. (American Teen's Hannah may have jumped from the Golden Gate a half-hour in here.) She oversteps in trying to amp things up with some wannabe gross-out set pieces (like a spray tanning gone wrong straight out of a Friends episode) but finds a way not to dwell on it and actually paints the film out of one at a dinner table sequence that begins as a where-has-this-table-been and ends up in a very funny conversation between Long and the always-good-for-a-laugh combo of Jim Gaffigan and Rob Riggle. Going the Distance is certainly at its best when it relaxes away from its overriding plot and just allows its performers to get at least one big laugh in every scene where the dialogue goes for one. 2010 has berated us already with the likes of Leap Year, When In Rome, She's Out Of My League, The Bounty Hunter and The Back-Up Plan, but do not reduce Going the Distance to just a slightly more positive reaction to the doldrums of the genre we have been suffocated with recently. It may be a lesser version of last year's (500) Days of Summer, but better that than to call it a more successful Valentine's Day.

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originally posted: 09/03/10 14:00:00
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User Comments

3/18/13 Mireya Cute movie 4 stars
1/24/11 bill norris got "drug" to this but it wasnt all bad 3 stars
9/06/10 amir kabiri 1 stars
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  03-Sep-2010 (R)
  DVD: 30-Nov-2010


  DVD: 30-Nov-2010

Directed by
  Nanette Burstein

Written by
  Geoff LaTulippe

  Drew Barrymore
  Justin Long

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