Director: Nanette Burstein
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Christina Applegate, Jason Sudeikis
Watch Going the Distance online in the UK: Amazon Prime Instant Video / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / Google Play
You can almost hear studio execs thinking up the idea of a long-distance relationship during the kooky animated credits. With its oh-so-witty title, Going the Distance clearly thinks its onto a winning concept. It is a topic that is relatively overlooked in the rom-com world, but Going the Distance is different from the pack for another reason: it’s really good.
Erin (Barrymore) is a wannabe journalist on placement in New York, frustrated that her career isn’t taking off. Garrett (Long) is a monkey at a record company, angry that his label doesn’t sign the talent that deserves to be heard. When Erin goes to blow off steam in a bar, she bumps into Garrett. They promptly bond over a shared love of Top Gun.
Going back to Garrett’s bedroom, their making out gets DJ-ed by Dan (Day), Garrett’s oddball flatmate. It sounds quite cliched and obvious – yes, Garrett has a bromance going on with both Dan and his friend, Box (Sudeikis) – but while the cast may ape Judd Apatow’s style, there’s a rawness to the whole thing that keeps it from going stale.
It helps that Drew and Justin have been in a real on-off off-screen relationship, giving the couple an instant, effortless chemistry. So when Erin has to go back home to San Francisco, 3,000 miles away, the strain on the relationship feels more sincere than a plot device; both are believable characters, as shown by their struggle to balance life with their careers, or by having a female lead who enjoys playing Caterpillar on arcade machines more than clothes shopping. Even Erin’s sarcastic and over-protective sister (Applegate) seems like more than just a foil to voice her work-life angst. That’s partly down to her bitter and unhappy husband (a great turn from Jim Gaffigan).
There are moments that feel a tad formulaic (a supposedly shocking moment of sex on a dining table, a bit with a fake sun tan) but the movie works thanks to its honest tone. Working from Geoff LaTulippe’s screenplay, Nanette Burstein uses her documentary background to make something that rings truer than American Teen did – most obviously in a string of improvised first dates shot on handhelds around New York, which bring out the funny in both Barrymore and Long.
The supporting cast, meanwhile, are all clearly trying hard to generate laughs, but they often hit the mark – when Garrett’s mourning his love life, their advice is: “If you want to get really f*cked up, we can listen to the Garden State soundtrack!”
Comfortable with its casual mood, Going the Distance’s gags are balanced with serious drama, real relationship obstacles and a nice dollop of sweet romance. Oh, and the soundtrack gets a boost from The Boxer Rebellion’s live performances too. There’s nothing stunningly new in Going the Distance. But there’s a lot that’s noticeably good.
Going the Distance is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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