Film review: Going the Distance | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Film review: Going the Distance

Director: Nannette Burstein

Cast: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day

Run time: 102 mins

Going the Distance tells the story of Garrett (Justin Long) and Erin (Drew Barrymore) trying to survive a long-distance relationship.

Yes, it is a rom-com. But it is smarter than most. It’s a long way from Lost in Translation but it is leagues ahead of the many shallow entries in the genre, such as The Proposal, Valentine’s Day and anything starring Matthew McConaughey.

The closest comparison is 500 Days of Summer and it is easy to imagine Nannette Burstein using the 2009 hit as her template when setting out to direct. As such, you have a great soundtrack, unconventional but likable leads and fun indie tics, such as text messages appearing onscreen.

The many staples of the rom-com genre are all present and correct: colourful animated credits, quirky best friends and a quirkier meet-cute, the obligatory falling-in-love montage and an Obstacle To Overcome. There is even a dash through an airport.

However, each of these motifs are more grounded and achieved with their own little twist. For instance, the airport dash occurs just a third of the way through the film, as opposed to being used as a climatic chase scene.

Furthermore, the Obstacle To Overcome is entirely believable. In fact, it is a common problem encountered in many relationships: sticking as a couple despite living miles and miles apart. Therefore, audiences will sympathise with the characters more than they would do in the usual rom-com set-ups.

The supporting cast, as ever in rom-coms is a mixed bag. They range from over-the-top to underused, to just plain forgettable. The standouts are Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as Garrett’s best mates, playing the funny man and straight man respectively. Both are hilarious.

Going the Distance occupies the risky middle ground between mainstream and indie, crowd-pleasing and niche, larger-than-life and realistic. Consequently, the tone is very inconsistent and large comedic pieces jar terribly with the rest of the film. Many of these are revealed during the trailer, including dry-humping, phone sex, eating off a table used for sex the night before and a fake tan sequence straight out of Friends.

Happily, the film is saved from mediocrity by the two leads. Both Long and Barrymore are effortlessly likable and their onscreen chemistry is believable and a joy to watch unfold. Whether they are playing arcade classic Centipede, bantering about Top Gun or just drinking bad wine, these are two characters that we love from the start.

It is refreshing to see Long finally use his good looks and natural charm as a leading man, as opposed to his comedic supporting turns in Dodgeball and Zack and Miri Make A Porno. And we should make the most of Barrymore whilst we still have her because following the popularity of her directorial debut, Whip It, she may soon be neglecting acting to follow in the footsteps of her godfather, Mr. Spielberg.

In short, if director Burstein had stayed loyal to her Sundance award-winning heritage, then this could have been this year’s 500 Days of Summer. As it stands, it is still likely to be the best rom-com of 2010. Worth a watch.


9th September 2010 at 1:42 pm

Last Updated

18th September 2010 at 5:16 pm