Thursday 9 September 2010

Going the Distance review

Going the Distance (15, 102 mins)
Director: Nanette Burstein
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

In the league table of romantic comedy stars, if Sandra Bullock is Chelsea and Gerard Butler is relegation fodder, Drew Barrymore regularly hovers around mid-table, possibly underachieving. With the help of her co-star here, Justin Long, she might make it into a European spot this season.

We’ve seen Barrymore and Long in the same movie before, in last year’s ensemble effort, He’s Just Not That Into You, though they didn’t share any scenes. It’s their chemistry together here as a couple trying to make a relationship work on either side of the United States that elevates Going the Distance from run of the mill to really quite appealing.

As we meet New Yorker Garrett (Long), he’s in the process of being dumped for being an inattentive boyfriend. Barrymore’s Erin meanwhile is spending the summer in New York as an intern at a newspaper. They hook up in a bar and really hit it off, but she’s leaving in six weeks to go back to California.

They agree they’ll give a long distance relationship a go, and as the months roll by they stay in touch through phone calls and the occasional get together. Throwing down their main obstacle early makes for an involving setup, and things chug along nicely for a while but there has to be an escalation in conflict and as it gets more and more difficult for them to be apart, their future together looks starts to bleak.

Rom-coms seem to come from a production line these days, with the characters generally having kooky jobs and best friends on hand to offer zany counsel. Going the Distance is no different, but it is more honest and truthful than most, and unlike many recent efforts gives us characters who are easy to root for, which goes a long way.

That’s helped by the likeable stars, with Barrymore coming across as breezy and smart. Long goes full Schwimmer in his bid to be as sweet and charming as possible, although stooping to nicking the tanning booth mishap gag from Friends is a bit much.

That’s part of what doesn’t work here, with a couple of the set pieces becoming a bit laboured when we were doing just fine with the engaging characters. And unusually for this type of film it’s got quite a lot of adult content, chock full of swearing and raunchy scenes rather than aiming for the teen crowd.

Though it does kind of put all its eggs in the one plot basket, with characters and subplots left dangling, at least it manages to steer clear of the dopey misunderstandings that frequently blight such movies. It’s may not quite be Champions League material but everyone can be happy with their effort.

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