Going the Distance
By Carl Kozlowski
September 3, 2010
Long-distance relationships have always been a true test of love and fidelity for any couple attempting them, but at least in the modern age of cell phones, Skype and occasionally cheap air travel, it's easier to keep the flame going from afar. Even so, the new romantic comedy Going the Distance delves into the complications involved between a couple who are forced to be as far away as possible in the USA: Erin (Drew Barrymore) lives in San Francisco, while Garrett (Justin Long) lives in New York City.
The two have their meet-cute while vying for a spot on an old-school Centipede video game at an NYC bar, where Garrett has gone with his best buddies Box (Jason Sudeikis of SNL) and Dan (Charlie Day) to drink away his sorrows over his latest botched relationship. He can't help clicking instantly with Erin, and the two have what they think is just a one-night stand before she reveals the next morning that she's only in NYC for six more weeks on a newspaper reporting internship.
They are too attracted to leave things as a one-time fling, but both are leery of a serious relationship due to the time constraint involved. So they agree to keep seeing each other for the next six weeks, but not to let it get too serious. Of course, they fall madly in love, and throw themselves into the herculean effort of making long-distance love work even when their lack of finances often gets in the way of even being able to visit each other.
Add in the profanely witty and very opinionated friends of Garrett, and the concerned sarcasm of Erin's married older sister, Corinne (Christina Applegate), and it seems everyone has a say in the couple's success or failure. It's that clever yet often highly salacious commentary that forces Garrett and Erin to realize they have to stand or fall on whether what they have is true love.
It may sound like that's the entire plot, but you'd be wrong on a couple of levels. First of all, since Going is a romantic comedy, it's nearly impossible not to figure out the formula of how things unfold. What matters in a movie like this is whether you laugh at the lines, care about the characters and enjoy the actors' chemistry, and on those levels, this movie is a winner.
Barrymore and Long are a famously on-again, off-again couple in real life who break up and make up enough to keep even the paparazzi confused. But their relationship onscreen, whether in humorously sexy hookups or heartfelt romantic moments, is clearly powered by the fireworks offscreen. And the film's casting directors have chosen their supporting cast wisely, as Applegate, Sudeikis and especially Day all have plenty of moments to shine as well. Comedian Jim Gaffigan also pulls off some hilarious moments as Applegate's husband.
The one weakness about the movie on a technical level is that there's almost no other plot besides the romantic machinations of fighting to keep love alive. The movie leaps back and forth from coast to coast as they try to make it work, to a degree that some might find exasperating if they can't immerse themselves in the rules of the romcom. But at the screening I attended, the film's incredibly heavy yet realistic use of dirty banter between friends kept the audience rolling with laughter, so the plot limitations will likely be overridden by the film's high laugh ratio. On that front, director Nanette Burstein (an Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker making her fiction-film debut) and writer Geoff LaTulippe (making his debut, period) should be proud.
From a Christian perspective, however, the film has a couple of red flags, as the profanity is a constant presence throughout the film, and there's numerous joking descriptions of topics ranging from masturbation to phone sex and beyond. It may sound crazy as a Christian critic to say this, but in the context of the movie's plotting and tone and the fact its characters are not intended to be moral paragons but just young, funny, secular-minded adults, the language rarely feels excessive; the overall tone of the film is truly good-natured. There is also one quick but graphic sex scene that's interrupted, and a few other discreet or implied sex scenes and an overall opinion that living together outside of marriage is a perfectly fine ideal. If you like the films of Judd Apatow (40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up), there's nothing here you haven't heard before. But if you're easily offended by raunchy dialogue, you'll want to drive right past the theater.