Summertime and the holiday season are the two biggest times of the year for cinema. Not only are they the most profitable for Hollywood, they also receive the most high profile films. Big budget blockbusters, hilarious ensemble comedies and dramatic Oscar contenders all seem to show up during those points in the year. The areas in between, despite having the occasional winner, are usually laden with garbage—bad romantic comedies, lame horror movies and the like (the latter of which The Last Exorcism can attest to). Well, this week’s romantic comedy, Going the Distance, is one of those occasional winners. Its execution is awkward and its existence slight, but there’s a bit of charm and a few decent laughs to keep you interested.
Justin Long plays Garrett, an outgoing young guy who hates his job at a local New York record company. In a hilarious, true-to-life opening, his girlfriend breaks up with him for not buying her a gift on her birthday, despite telling him she didn’t want anything. Supposedly, the statement was intended for him to realize how much he wants to get a gift for her. But no dice, he doesn’t and the relationship ends. At a bar one night, he meets Erin, played nicely by Drew Barrymore, at a Centipede arcade machine. It turns out she’s the elusive ERL who has dominated the leaderboards for the last few months. The two connect and end up back at Garrett’s place, but then Erin explains to him that she’s an intern at the New York Sentinel and is only in town for another few weeks. Although they agree early on not to take the relationship further than random hangouts and hookups, it nevertheless blossoms and they decide to attempt a long distance relationship, Garrett in New York and Erin in California.
There’s something wonderful about Drew Barrymore. She’s the perfect every girl, someone you can believe would be walking around the streets of the Big Apple. She is adorable, bubbly and charming with a sort of sexiness that doesn’t overshadow her personality. Cast her opposite real life on again, off again boyfriend Justin Long and you have a chemistry that feels authentic.
Even more important than that, however, is the humor and there are a few great jokes here. There aren’t many movies that can pull off a Triumph of the Will reference, but Going the Distance somehow does. That funny line precedes the funniest scene of the movie: phone sex gone wrong. But for every one of those instances, there’s another where the joke falls completely flat or is stretched too long, including an absurdly unfunny sight gag involving a tanning machine and run on jokes about defecating with the door open.
What the movie unfortunately lacks is an emotional evolution of the characters. Think back to some of the greatest romantic comedies of all time like It Happened One Night or When Harry Met Sally. Those wonderful films began with the two main characters at a quarrel, not particularly liking each other, but as the movie went on they gradually realized the romantic feelings that were there. Going the Distance has no such arc. The characters love each other at the beginning and they love each other at the end. So what the film instead resorts to is a continual loop, one character flying out to visit the other, going back home and then wondering if they can keep it up being so far apart. It wears thin by the end.
Going the Distance has many problems and it falls far short of being memorable. I suspect in a month or so, I’ll have forgotten about it entirely, but the leads are likable and the supporting cast beautifully supports them, providing a much needed comedic break between the sometimes eye rolling dramatics. It’s worth a look, but only once and never again.
Going the Distance receives 2.5/5