A romantic comedy centered on a couple who try to keep their love alive as they shuttle back and forth between New York and San Francisco to see one another.
Going the Distance is a sharp romantic comedy that paints a truthful and funny picture of what it’s like to have a long distance relationship. It continues the honourable cinematic tradition of the heartfelt New York romance that is just as much about friendship as it is about love. Its tone is similar to When Harry Met Sally, only updated for a 21st Century, web 2.0 savvy, long-haul flying generation.
Barrymore plays Erin, a woman in her thirties attempting to crack the tough world of journalism by interning at a New York newspaper for the summer. After a bad day at work she meets Garrett (Long), a vaguely commitment-phobic but essentially sweet-hearted guy, in a bar. They bond over a mutual love of arcade games and the next thing they know, they’re embarking upon an impulsive hookup in Garrett’s thin-walled flat, where they suffer the indignity of having the Top Gun score played as an accompaniment by Garrett’s comic foil and flatmate Dan (Charlie Day).
Garrett is quickly bowled over by Erin’s straightforward charm and easy-going nature, and their summer passes in a loved-up haze. When Erin flies back to California to complete her journalism degree, they decide to see how things go and stay together. Cue endless phone calls, the struggles of negotiating time differences, and tentative attempts at phone sex. Because the lovers are apart for so much of the time it’s interesting to see them redefine themselves as a couple, estranged. How jealous is too jealous? How much can you flirt with a colleague before it goes too far? Exactly how much should one person sacrifice for the sake of a relationship?
Garrett’s best friends – the magnificently mustachioed Box (SNL regular Jason Sudeikis) and the aforementioned slacker Dan – provide a comical running commentary on the unfolding romance. Going the Distance has a rich seam in gags relating to putting up with a friend’s transformation from functioning human being to heartsick lover, and the dynamics of male friendship are brought to life by perceptive and witty improvisations upon a quality script. Actually, the script itself (written by Geoff LaTullipe) is a marvel: it doesn’t rely on improbably zany scenarios to get laughs, and contains some well-observed lines, including a varied portfolio of excellent jokes about oral sex. Smutty jokes are not, in themselves, very daring – but the sexual frankness depicted is honest rather than prurient, and got genuine laughs from the usually staid film critic audience.
Going the Distance is not just funny – it’s emotionally honest too. The obstacles that long-distance relationships tend to feature are not continually played for laughs, and the leads bring believable moments of frustration and unhappiness to an otherwise sunny film. You get the sense that Barrymore and Long had reserves of personal experience to draw on for their roles, what with their own on-off romance, and happily they also share chemistry on screen. I left the cinema having laughed a great deal, and enjoyed the company of the characters. Going the Distance is definitely worthy of a trip to the cinema, especially if the romantic comedy genre has burned you in the past. It has insightful things to say about modern love, and will make you laugh: lovely.