Nautical disaster movie Two Came Back; hot tub time machine comedy Hot Tub Time Machine; and that movie where nothing happens, What Just Happened? – it’s never the best sign when a film’s plot can be summed up by its title, but Drew Barrymore’s latest, Going the Distance, is yet another rom-com that promises to be different.
Garrett (Justin Long, Drag Me to Hell, the chipmunks in Alvin and...) is just not that into his current girlfriend, so isn’t too distraught when she dumps him after he severely misreads her woman-speak and offers her curry and sex for her birthday. Luckily for him, the same day he meets his match in Barrymore’s Erin, a 31-year-old newspaper intern.
A beer swilling, top-scoring, bong-smoking messy eater and into Shawshank Redemption Erin is just like a man. And thus the perfect woman. The only downside is that her internship ends in six weeks’ time, when she’ll be leaving New York for grad school in San Francisco. They do the only thing they can in this situation; exchange numbers and start dating.
Six weeks later, having been hurt in the past by putting her boyfriend before her career, Erin is determined to finish her education and leaves New York to live with her over-bearing OCD sister (Christina Applegate, from the excellent Samantha Who?), who advocates long-distance dry-humping. However, Garrett does have good hair and she is crazy about him, so they decide to embark on a textual relationship.
Abusing Erin’s sister’s dining room furniture, phone sex, watching hilarious YouTube videos about sneezing pandas; at first it all seems doable. But as paranoia builds over what the other is doing and with whom, their friends become irrationally angry at all their texting and predict doom in their immediate future. There’s a sexy British bartender for Garrett to compete with too, and things predictably start to fall apart. Will the couple ever succeed in Going the Distance (sigh)?
Most of the comedy is derived from Garrett’s two best friends. Dan (Charlie Day from comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) provides the soundtrack to Garrett’s love life. The foreplay (Take My Breath Away); the morning after ((I’ve Had) The Time of My Life). Box (Jason Sudeikis, SNL) is on hand to provide moustache dating tips and issue dire warnings on the couple’s future.
Despite being what are essentially taller and shorter versions of the same person, Dan and Box’s double act is a decent flipside to the usual Sex and the City-esque gal pal support network.
The USP for this otherwise predicable rom-com is the gender equalising. Refreshingly, director Nanette Burstein has made a film where the women are on top, often literally. New writer Geoff LaTulippe has provided Burstein with a rude, sweet, but genuinely funny script and created a role that’s perfect for Barrymore.
Erin’s colourful use of language and bloke-ish euphemisms might have verged on the masculine for another actress, but Barrymore’s unique blend of wicked charm, innocence and comedic prowess keeps the balance just right. Only Barrymore can respond to the line ‘I have a tip for you’, by squealing ‘The tip of your penis?’ and still remain adorable.
Garrett is typical of Long’s typecasting. He’s the borderline-jerk whose playing around is ultimately rewarded by him ending up with his perfect woman. Garret’s heart-breaker past is swiftly forgotten as soon as he falls for Erin, and the film barely scratches the surface of his superficial, but well-meaning, character. However, as it’s still hard to believe that Long is an adult now, even when he’s playing one, his boyish charm means his characters can be forgiven for causing long-lasting emotional damage. Bless.
Convenient marketing gimmick aside, Long and Barrymore’s off-screen romance could account for the naturalistic chemistry on screen. Their exchanges seem intimate and the laughter genuine as they verbally spar their way through shared scenes, regardless of whether they’re in the same state at the time.
For a film that manages to be quirky, warm and funny throughout, it lets itself down by delivering a flat ending. The shamelessly lazy conclusion comes as a total a none-surprise and doesn’t try hard enough to be otherwise. Going the Distance doesn’t quite go far enough to provide any long lasting satisfaction, but it does fill a gap.