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"GOING THE DISTANCE"
(2010) (Drew Barrymore, Justin Long) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Romantic Comedy: Following a one-night stand, a couple ends up falling in love in New York, but after six weeks together must contend with being in a long-distance relationship when the woman moves back to San Francisco to finish graduate school.
PLOT:
Erin (DREW BARRYMORE) is a 31-year-old intern at the New York Sentinel where she hopes one day to work as a real and full-time reporter. Garrett (JUSTIN LONG) works at a New York based record label where he's stuck handling boy bands rather than bringing true talent to the forefront of the music scene. The two meet one night at a bar where he's out drinking with his roommate, Dan (CHARLIE DAY), and their friend, Box (JASON SUDEIKIS), who are consoling him over his recent break-up with his girlfriend.

Garrett and Erin immediately hit it off and, following sleeping together, agree to keep their relationship casual. That's not only because he just got out of one, but also because she's moving back to San Francisco in 6 weeks to live with her sister, Corinne (CHRISTINA APPLEGATE), and her husband, Phil (JIM GAFFIGAN), while finishing her last year of graduate school at Stanford.

Yet, as those weeks pass, the two end up falling in love and decide to continue dating, albeit in a long-distance relationship. But they quickly discover that phone calls, text messages and occasional visits in person are poor substitutes for the real and consistent thing. Throw in the fact that Garrett finds himself jealous of Damon (OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN), the handsome bartender at the restaurant where Erin works, and she becomes suspicious of Garrett's attractive coworker, Brianna (KELLI GARNER), and the couple realizes they're going to have a hard time dating from across the country.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
With the divorce rate reportedly north of 50% in the United States, there's no doubt that making relationships survive is hard work that entails, among other things, full commitment from both parties. There's also the fact that couples need to spend quality time together, and in today's world that's becoming progressively difficult year after year.

Distance might make the heart grow fonder for some, but too much of that, be it of the physical and/or emotional variety, is never a good thing. Sure there are various substitutes (such as the old-fashioned phone calls, followed by newer technologies such as email, texting, video chats and such), but if there's too much distance for too long, as well as the usual outside temptations, that usually doesn't result in anything positive.

That, among other things, is one of the reasons why I imagine most Hollywood couples never make it as one or both parties are always on the road, going from one project or event to the next. All of which makes this week's release of "Going the Distance" all the more interesting. A mixture of a standard romantic comedy and a more ribald & risqué one along the lines of what the Judd Apatow movie comedy factory has been kicking out for years, the film stars Drew Barrymore and Justin Long as long-distance lovers.

There's nothing tremendously unique or strange about that, except for the fact that the two have been a romantic item. While they obviously spent time working together on the film and then promoting its release, there will most likely always be the nagging issue that they'll end up spending time apart, where electronic or Internet connections might prove to be a poor substitute for face-to-face contact. Of course, only time will tell, and depending on when you read this review, they might still be together, have done so for years or decades, or perhaps eventually went their separate ways.

Granted, this isn't a perfect art imitating life example, as Long plays a record label employee and Barrymore his unintentional girlfriend who wants to land a full-time reporting gig at any New York City newspaper. When she can't (which is no surprise considering how papers are hemorrhaging money and jettisoning both sections and employees nowadays), she ends up moving back in with her sister (Christina Applegate) across the country in Seattle.

With Long's character getting support and advice from his Apatowian buddies (yes, I just made that up) played by Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, the long-distance lovers try to carry on with their relationship. And that includes all of the usual obstacles (the mileage being the most obvious), pitfalls (misunderstood behavior and hurt feelings) and complications (jealousy arising from characters played by Kelli Garner and Oliver Jackson-Cohen) arising along the way.

Director Nanette Burstein -- who works from a screenplay by Geoff LaTulippe -- serves up all of the usual elements in those fields and others (including the raunchy and frank sex talk, etc.). In addition, she really isn't in any hurry to move the story along. As a result, it often feels stalled -- especially in the second half -- in terms of dramatic (or comedic or romantic, for that matter) forward momentum.

That said, the filmmakers get a lot of mileage out of the dialogue flowing from the various characters' mouths, while the Apatow-type imitator material (while not as good as the real stuff) does provide for some genuinely funny moments (a "Top Gun" related one is fairly amusing), with Day and Sudeikis ably stepping up to the plate for such duties. At the same time, a running gag about Applegate's character being a germaphobe might go on and push things a bit too far with a late-night dining room table act.

The film also benefits from a good and fairly believable chemistry between Long and Barrymore. While that would seem to be a given, such real-life situations don't necessarily translate that well onto the screen. This time, however, it survives the transfer fairly intact and is what makes the film fairly easy to watch. While it takes its sweet time in doing the titular thing, "Going the Distance" has enough charm and laughs to warrant a 5.5 out of 10 rating.




Reviewed August 9, 2010 / Posted September 3, 2010


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