Going the Distance
Romantic comedies are not complicated; they’re basically emotional candies. Women (and some of the more self-assured men) love them and they provide a nice little oxytocin rush. And the first thing a romantic comedy needs to have going for it is an interesting premise (Pretzel M&M’s®) but preferably one that’s not too challenging on the surface (Crunchy Frog). Here Going the Distance delivers with a story about a long-distance relationship: a prospect which — and here I quote at least eight lines in the screenplay — “fucking sucks”.
Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Garrett (Justin Long) hook up one night at a bar. He’s a serial monogamist who works at a record label in Brooklyn, and she’s a 31-year-old journalism intern, in New York for the summer break from her graduate program at Stanford. They date, knowing full well that he’s on the rebound and she’s leaving in the fall, and at the end of six weeks they don’t want to let a little thing like 2500 miles come in between them. Back and forth they go, discovering the myriad ways that a long-distance relationship — say it with me, boys and girls — “fucking sucks”.
The bulk of the movie takes place in New York City, where the action is dominated by Garrett’s friend Box (Jason Sudeikis) and roommate Dan (Charlie Day). The remainder is in San Francisco, where Erin lives with her sister Corrine (Christina Applegate) and brother-in-law Phil (Jim Gaffigan). Sudeikis and Day both are excellent; Applegate and Gaffigan are good as well, but are both severely underused for what they’re capable of delivering. All around, the supporting cast really work.
In fact, what really doesn’t work is the relationship between Long and Barrymore. And it’s unfortunate, since a centerpiece relationship is the other thing a romantic comedy needs to have going for it. I know I’m not union, but I think I’m still contractually bound to mention that these two are an off-screen couple as well. It’s like none of the producers had ever heard of Gigli.
From there the film plays out basically as you could expect. There are a number of turns where it sets up and frames a perfect opportunity to buck conventions, but it pointedly passes them up and snubs both feminism and realism in the process. And really, what else could you expect? It’s just a romantic comedy, after all.
Worth it: if you’ve got nothing else to do. It helps if you like romantic comedies in general, and Jason Sudeikis or It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia in particular.
Bechdel test: fail