ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "GOING THE DISTANCE" GOES A LONG WAY

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By Brian Lafferty

 

September 3, 2010 (San Diego)--I normally try to give every movie I see the benefit of the doubt but I will admit, based on such experiences as When in Rome and The Bounty Hunter, that it was hard for me to not be leery. Fortunately, whatever doubts I had immediately dissipated once Going the Distance began and the result was a very good time and lots of laughs. I urge you not to dismiss it.

 

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long play a couple who meet cute at a Centipede arcade game. Barrymore is an intern for a New York newspaper who feels the brunt of the industry’s declining fortunes. Long has a more stable job in a record company. The two immediately hit it off despite the fact that Barrymore has only six weeks before she goes back to Stanford for one year to finish off her education. That doesn’t stop them, however, from having a long distance relationship.

 

Barrymore and Long have amazing chemistry and their relationship is very romantic. This is evident in a montage that takes place on a boat, at the beach, and at dinner all set to The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” The combination of the music and the ardor of the two leads gave me goosebumps.

 

That is when they are together. For the majority of the movie, they are a continent apart but the romance between the two doesn’t suffer. There is a constant sensual connection between the two whether they are talking on the phone or whether they’re talking on Skype.

 

The supporting cast isn’t given short shrift in terms of dimension. Prominent among them is Christina Applegate who plays Barrymore’s finicky sister with shades of Felix Unger. Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day play Long’s friends. They strengthen the screenplay by providing extra laughs, which unburdens the two leads. When Barrymore and Long aren’t together or aren’t talking with each other, there’s always the interaction between Long and his friends and Barrymore and her sister.

 

The movie is just as funny as it is romantic. Much of the humor comes from the characters and dialogue as opposed to a reliance on slapstick and physical comedy. That doesn’t mean the few instances of physical humor in this movie aren’t funny. One of the funniest scenes is when Barrymore and Long start making love on her sister’s dining room table only to find her brother-in-law is sitting there having a midnight snack.

 

The physical humor is funny but most of the laughs arise from the sharp, witty dialogue. The screenwriter for this picture, Geoff LaTulippe, doesn’t tone down the material. He writes it the way he wants to rather than just settle for the PG-13 rating to reach a larger audience. There are a lot of funny lines and I would give a sample but, alas, none of them can be repeated or even hinted at in a family publication.

 

After watching Going the Distance, I was reminded of such romantic comedies as Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything and Jerry Maguire, Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude, and Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally. I enjoyed Going the Distance for the same reason I’m fond of those films. Everything about this movie, including the characters and the situations they face, feels real and true to life. That, to me, is the key to a believable romance.