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Movie Review: ‘Going the Distance’

September 3, 2010
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Real life on again/off again couple Drew Barrymore and Justin Long team up in this sweet romantic comedy that realistically depicts the good, the bad, and the ugly about long distance relationships.

Erin (Barrymore) and Garrett (Long) meet in a bar in New York one evening.  The two quickly bond over their mutual love of the retro arcade game Centipede, and spend the rest of the evening together.   Erin is up front, and lets Garrett know that she won’t be staying in New York much longer.

Her summer internship is going to be over in six weeks, and she will be returning to Stanford to complete school.  They both agree to keep things casual for the next few weeks.

Why is it that when we make these types of vows, we always end up falling the hardest?

Naturally the two fall hopelessly in love, and are completely inseparable for those few weeks before she leaves. They share a tearful, protracted good-bye at the airport, and decide to keep the relationship going, despite the distance.

Thus begins our voyeuristic look into the trials and tribulations of their  long distance relationship.  Texting, late night phone calls, more texting, loneliness and uncertainty, and infrequent weekend visits.  Erin and Garrett each face temptations with comely co-workers (Kelly Garner and Oliver Jackson Cohen.)

If you’ve ever been in a long distance relationship, you’ll find some of these scenes uncomfortable to watch.  You empathize with the cute couple, all the while relieved  that you will never have to do that again. Long dormant memories poke you in the heart like little shards of glass, reminding you of just how much it really sucked.  At least these guys have texting.  I was lucky to have a weekly phone call.

Fortunately, director Nanette Burstein diffuses the situation with humor, and lots of it, long before you have a change to cry in your diet coke.  By keeping things light and frothy, Burstein avoids the trap of having these characters wallow in misery and depressing the rest of us in the process.

Garrett’s best buddies are played by Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and SNL‘s current it-guy Jason Sudeikis, and they add some much needed raunchy humor to the movie.  Sudeikis’s story about his mustache serving as a time machine is some truly funny stuff.

I also appreciate the fact that the movie presents women realistically.  When Erin frequently confides in her neurotic neat-freak sister (played by a saucy Christina Applegate), they talk to one another like I talk to my friends.  If something terrible happens in my life, I do not say “Oh, Dear” or “Mercy Me”  I say the “F” word, loudly.  That is how Erin and her sister talk.  Some might find it crass, but I found it refreshingly honest and real, and it didn’t feel gratuitious.

Barrymore might be a smidge old to play this character, but she still has such a baby-face that she can almost pull it off.  Long is genuinely charming in the movie, and again, I find it refreshing that they didn’t use some drop dead gorgeous man in the role.

Long is very average looking, and that helps make this romantic comedy feel accessible to all of us.  Too often we see Barbie and Ken cast in the lead roles, and it never really feels like a movie for the everyman.

Going the Distance is a movie for the average person with average relationship problems.  Fella’s- if you have to go to the theater with  your lady friend, you could do far worse than this film.  It is clear that the movie is trying to appeal to men and women alike.  It is not the gooey love story we are typically spoon fed.  This story has got some real bite.

Rating 3/5

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