“Going the Distance” — the new cross-country romantic comedy starring on-again-off-again couple Drew Barrymore and Justin Long — is a bit like a long-distance relationship. The movie is full of chemistry and snappy, laugh-out-loud humor, which more than make up for the occasional bump in the road. Add in just the right amount of raunchiness and the result is an entertaining, if flawed, affair.
The story is surprisingly fresh. New Yorker Garrett (Long) is just getting out of an ill-fitting relationship, while Erin (Barrymore) will be leaving her Big Apple internship for school in San Francisco in six weeks. But the 30-somethings’ feelings grow, and they decide to try to make it work 3,000 miles apart.
Writer Geoff LaTulippe fills the plot with realistic problems of a long-distance relationship such as jealousy and time difference issues. Erin and Garrett’s relationship has both ups and downs, but their passion, whether love or anger, is never extreme. At times it feels like the duo is just going through the motions, which does nothing to help build the couple’s chemistry.
Director Nanette Burnstein also has a problem staying consistent. At times, her direction is realistic, and the interactions of the characters are layered with overlapping dialogue that is particularly successful during the bar scene where the two leads meet. However, the pace of Garrett and Erin’s relationship gets dragged out with a few too many montages.
What saves the film from being merely another so-so love story are the consistent and incredibly clever humorous lines that are perfectly delivered by a cast that feels real to life. Whatever ill-feelings Erin’s uncharacteristic decision might raise in the audience are subdued by the amusing and complex characters LaTulippe develops during the rest of the movie. Garrett begins the film a decent, charming yet insensitive guy who naturally begins to fall in love with the disarmingly frank and immature Erin. Barrymore and Long avoid falling into the trap of so many real-life screen couples. They fall in love on screen with a natural ease.
The actors are not only at ease with each other, but also with other characters. Erin’s relationship with her uptight older sister Corinne (Christina Applegate) is one any younger sibling can identify with. In her few scenes Applegate effectively juggles concern and support for her wayward sister while being too tense for her own good.
Meanwhile, Garrett’s light camaraderie with buddies Dan (Charlie Day) and Box (Jason Sudeikis) could almost be a “bromance” story in itself. Their overlapping dialogue discussing everything from the best mustache to how to court older women come straight out of a real group of guys at the local bar. With such a cohesive cast that further elevates the already amusing material, it is no wonder the plot problems seem trivial.
Giving the audience many reasons to laugh is certainly the No. 1 goal of a romantic comedy. And despite some turbulence along the way, the high frequency of hilarity and the engaging cast make the overall experience of “Going the Distance” a smooth and ultimately satisfying trip.
“Going the Distance” was written by Geoff LaTulippe and directed by Nanette Burnstein.