by KYW’s Bill Wine —
If it doesn’t quite go the distance, it at least gets close enough to make us glad that it made the attempt and happy that we made the trip.
Going the Distance is a lighthearted, R-rated romantic comedy — replete with cheery, audience-friendly profanities — that explores the loneliness of the long-distance lover when he and/or she is thousands of miles away from his and/or her significant other.
Thirtysomething co-stars Drew Barrymore and Justin Long (above) offer themselves up on screen as an off-screen, on-again-off-again-on-again couple appearing in pop art that on some level imitates their tabloid-monitored life.
Barrymore plays Erin, a journalism graduate student on a six-week summer internship with a newspaper in New York City before returning to the left coast to complete her master’s degree at Stanford.
Long is Garrett, a junior executive for a record company who’s just been dumped and is thus commitment-shy, to say the least.
They “meet cute” and begin a summer fling that eventuates into a full-blown romance and then turns into a difficult long-distance relationship when she must return to San Francisco.
The various modern communication devices at their disposal, including the computer and the cell phone, can’t mask for very long the lack of actual contact, sexual or otherwise, which both of them long for.
Christina Applegate plays Erin’s married, protective sister, with the deadpan Jim Gaffigan as her husband, while Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day balance out the seesaw as Garrett’s wiseacre buddies.
It’s a smart, cohesive ensemble of comic actors who know how to earn their laughs without stealing the spotlight.
The first-feature screenplay by Geoff LaTulippe doesn’t necessarily follow through on every subtheme or subplot it concocts, nor does it provide definitive answers to the questions it raises or unearth discoveries connected to the themes it explores. But it’s confident enough about its characters, its dialogue, and its romantic geometry to keep the generic narrative contrivances and convolutions to a minimum.
This, it says, is a comedic look at one particular cross-country couple whose creators hope will resonate with many couples dealing with separation or problems similar to it.
And it does.
Barrymore and Long certainly have natural and appropriate chemistry, comic and romantic. And the background of director Nanette Burstein in actuality-embracing documentaries (American Teen, The Kid Stays in the Picture, On the Ropes) probably comes in handy in keeping the somewhat contrived script grounded in vaguely recognizable reality.
The characters have their movie-movie moments, to be sure, but in general the problems that the focal couple find themselves dealing with at least seem pertinent in the workaday world — to say nothing of the live-a-day or love-a-day worlds.
So we’ll travel 3 stars out of 4 for a sweetly raunchy, winningly modest bicoastal rom-com about the tyranny of distance. With the appealing duo of Barrymore and Long leading the way, Going the Distance justifies its existence by overcoming our resistance.