Going The Distance

Going The Distance

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Drew Barrymore is fast becoming the go-to woman for funny females. She proved she could handle herself behind the camera earlier in the year when she helmed the smart and sassy Whip It and here she comes through with a romcom lead that actually feels as though she might exist in the real world, rather than just being another Judd Apatow-style sappy foil for male wish fulfilment.

She plays Erin, an older-than-usual intern on a New York newspaper, having had to get back into the studies loop after throwing it all away previously for a romance that failed. With just six weeks left before she heads back to San Francisco on the opposite side of the country, she sparks up an easygoing, 'commitment-free' relationship with record company employee Garrett (Barrymore's real-life on/off squeeze Justin Long). A soon leads to Be Mine Forever as the two of them discover they're in too deep to want to say goodbye. What follows is the charting of their long-distance relationship and if it's pretty clear what the ultimate outcome for these star-crossed lovers will be - it is a romantic comedy, after all - there is a freshness here and a playing around with the usual conventions that lifts it above many of its ilk.

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Going The Distance's most endearing trait is that the emotions and situations the characters find themselves in feel genuine. First-time writer Geoff LaTulippe - from whom, let us hope we see much more - embraces the economic woes many are facing, rather than skirting the issue. It may be that his characters are in somewhat out of the ordinary jobs, but there is no attempt to sugarcoat either industry. Newspapers here, just as in the real world, are shedding staff like crazy, while Garrett soon find jobs in his line of work are hard to come by, too.

There's an honesty to the conversations between Erin and Garrett as well, as they are put in situations that feel perfectly plausible rather than contrived. This gives the comedy a natural lilt and also helps to generate humour in unexpected places. A making out session gone bad is perfectly structured to ensure it becomes a laugh crescendo, while elsewhere there's some good on-the-nose observational comedy, such as the conflict between the inherent usefulness/ridiculousness of attempting phone sex. There is also an admirable amount of flipping of gender expectations, so that, for example, it is long we see embarrassed as he attempts to get a fake tan and Barrymore that finds herself in a bar brawl.

Barrymore and Long are as sparky as you would expect for a couple that are actually an item in real-life and director Nannette Burnstein opts to show a decent number of 'make out' scenes, to help us believe their relationship and care what happens to it. LaTulippe performs a deft balancing trick in terms of the characters' friends, too. Both Erin and Garrett come with a believable buddy entourage. In Garrett's case it's flatmate Dan (Charlie Day) and pal Box (Jason Sudeikis) who are used undercut the frothier side of the romance with some smart situational humour, while on Erin's side of the fence is her protective sister (Christina Applegate) and hubby Phil (Jim Gaffigan) who get many of the best one-liners.

Sweet without being sticky and with just enough sourness to keep things real, this is a romantic comedy that delivers in both departments.

Reviewed on: 09 Sep 2010
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Going The Distance packshot
A couple try to keep their romance alive on opposite sides of the country
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Director: Nanette Burstein

Writer: Geoff LaTulippe

Starring: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate, Jim Gaffigan

Year: 2010

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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