Going The Distance

Garrett (Justin Long) has just been dumped, again. Erin (Drew Barrymore) is a summer intern at the tender age of thirty one. Both feel, rather reasonably, that it’s time to get drunk in an anonymous bar. When their eyes meet over a crowded Centipede arcade game, the two hit it off and a couple of montages later decide to Give Things A Go. The problem? Erin is leaving in six weeks, to finish up Grad School in California. Garrett has to stay in New York in order to chase his dream as a band scout. Can young love overcome the time difference? You’re never really in much doubt, but then that’s not really the point, is it?

Wait, they… like each other?

Hurrah for Drew Barrymore. Hurrah for screen-writer Geoff LaTulippe and hurrah for a rom-com that features A Couple That Don’t Hate Each-Other. Alright, it might not seem like a massive achievement, but think about it; we’re so used to the disapproving frown lines of Katherine Heigl/Jennifer Aniston/Leslie Mann that we were beginning to assume all men essentially look for girls who hate everything they do. Long and Barrymore breathe real life into the tired formula, and their engaging chemistry, individual likeability and camaraderie make them a couple you root for. Their exchanges are genuinely lovely without ever being sickly, and though in many ways they’re simply going through classic rom-com motions, you feel like you’re watching it afresh. For example; when Garrett surprises Erin by turning up in California at the restaurant she works in she gasps with surprise, and he grins “I’ve got a tip for you.” Erin, gleeful and excited, replies “is it the tip of your penis?” and Garrett looks at her with horror, “of course not, that’s disgusting – OK, no it is, it’s totally my penis! 20% of my penis. ” Ah. Romance.

Teams: Assemble.

Of course, in any rom-com the two leads are only as good as their supporting crews, and luckily in both camps the casting is perfect. Christina Applegate nearly steals the show as Erin’s uptight older sister, and Garrett’s motley group of friends (made up of Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) are suitably inappropriate yet brotherly. The two sides guide Erin and Garrett through their relationship turbulence, but, thankfully, ensure that the scales are always tipped towards the comedy side of rom-com.

Ask no questions…

The only frustration to be had with this film is that with such a talented creative team, Going The Distance could have offered so much more than a traditional romance in fresh wrapping paper. As it is, though it’s undeniably an enjoyable ride for lads and ladies alike, we’re never in any doubt as to our final destination. The film relies on its charm, its quirky likability and its fresh take on “the bromance couple”, rather than rooting its numerous advantages in a satisfying story. Still, Long and Barrymore make a formidable team, and overall it’s difficult to imagine anyone leaving Going The Distance without being glad they took the trip.

This piece first appeared on The People’s Movies

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