September 9, 2010

Off-Screen Romance Equals On-Screen Charm

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Is there irony in a feel-good movie about long-distance relationships or is it just me? Going the Distance, aside from its title, is less cliché than your standard When Harry Met Sally and manages to glorify the modern day relationship equation: beer plus sex equals love. For starters, this is no Kate Hudson-Matthew McConaughey cast, which already makes things a little more relatable (you know-good looking, but not too good looking), and the script includes the ideal amount of comedy to complement the difficult reality of long-distance love. Perhaps the on-again-off-again status of Drew Barrymore and Justin Long in real life contributes to their on-screen chemistry, but the pair is definitely convincing as best friends in love. Although grown-up more confident Drew is preferable to her flighty Charlie’s Angels days, the age-difference between the leading lovers was noticeable.

Erin (Barrymore) a 31-year old journalism grad student at Stanford is interning in the city for the summer. Her foul-mouthed character satisfies the “cool” girlfriend fantasy but tries too hard at times. She has an obnoxiously protective older sister Corinne (Christina Applegate) who is understandably concerned as an over-committed relationship is what cost Erin a career in the first place. She is a tad obsessive but Applegate is sharp enough to appreciate anyway. Long on the other hand, is adorably fitting for his character and easily manages to break through the “Mac guy” persona as Garrett, the loveable music guru who holds a stagnant job at a record company and is about as fresh out of a relationship as you can be. The two meet over an exceedingly witty encounter at a bar which (following Top Gun-talk and a “tortellini” dinner) turns into a montage of six weeks canoodling around the city leading up to the super-unexpected airport scene where Garrett passionately professes his feelings and they decide to test the strength of their bond as Erin hops on a plane to the other side of the country. Through their undeniable connection and the help of their respective family/friend support systems the two embark on what is actually a pretty entertaining relationship journey. Well, that, or a ping pong game from San Francisco to New York.

On Long’s bench are the crude but caring best friends Box and Dan played by Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day. These two funny-guys add the bulk of the humor to the movie providing thoughtful and inappropriate advice and participating in Garrett’s love life as much as he’ll let them.

First-time screen writer Geoff LaTulippe combines a heavy, but realistic amount of profanity with a hilariously raunchy supporting cast (kept in line by director Nanette Burstein) to add depth to the ever-predictable love story we crave to hate.

The story accurately depicts the agonizing thrill of a cross country connection by capturing everything from the difficult goodbyes and surprise visits, to awkward cell phone communication, and inevitable temptations. They text too much, bicker, laugh and review the terms of the relationship when needed to ensure they are on the same page in different states, but when the past rears its inescapable head, the decisions become more serious than whether or not to tan before their next visit. Erin originally dropped out of school to move in with her previous boyfriend, the decision that made her a 31-year-old intern in the first place, and Garrett has been taking jokes about his inability to commit for years. Opportunities arise that put the pressure on permanent decisions and that’s when things get messy.

Barrymore and Long are funny, but honest enough that you can feel their vulnerability and by the end of the film, you’re really pulling for them. Box and Dan provide the giggles to push Going the Distance just off the beaten rom-com path enough to enjoy with some girlfriends or even a boyfriend that didn’t need a plane to get to you.

2.5 Towers

Original Author: Erin Keene