Friday, September 03, 2010

Going the Distance

GOING THE DISTANCE (Nanette Burstein, 2010)

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long attempt to maintain a bicoastal relationship in the romantic comedy GOING THE DISTANCE. Long’s record label employee Garrett and Barrymore’s aspiring journalist Erin hit it off immediately, but they promise not to get too serious because in six weeks she’ll be leaving New York City for grad school in California. When the time comes for her to head west, Garrett and Erin realize that they want to continue their young romance in spite of whatever difficulties the distance might bring.

Not only is GOING THE DISTANCE a consistently funny romantic comedy, it possesses the rare wisdom to explore the relationship rather than contriving conflicts. So many films in this genre get bogged down in generating immediate artificial discord to split the couple apart for the inevitable big reunion. This strategy loses sight of developing a romance that stokes the desire for such a reconciliation in the first place. Building with scene upon scene of Garrett and Erin showing their funny, warm, and vulnerable sides, GOING THE DISTANCE lets the characters fall in love and gives the audience a reason to root for them before they have reasonable problems to overcome.

It helps that Barrymore either has a nose for the right script or knows how to tailor them to her strengths. She’s again playing a variation on her usual role of the down to earth free spirit, but why complain when she is so good at creating appealing and relatable characters like she does here?

GOING THE DISTANCE gives both elements of this film type equal weight. While the romance is nurtured, the laughs never wane in this sharply timed comedy. Director Nanette Burstein and screenwriter Geoffrey LaTulippe spread the wealth, and the raunch, among the strong ensemble, which includes Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate, and Jim Gaffigan. As Garrett’s strange, good-natured roommate Dan, Charlie Day swipes the most scenes, whether it’s by listening too attentively through the bedroom wall or conducting conversations with the bathroom door open. GOING THE DISTANCE is concocted from a familiar formula. It just happens to be a really good example of what can be done with it.

Grade: B+

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