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Going The Distance

Going The Distance

Review by Lisa Giles-Keddie

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

LONG-distance relationships can be hard at the best of times, but when you don’t intend for the inevitable ‘falling in love’ process to happen, they can be a feat of military precision and planning to keep the fire burning.

Romcoms have seen their fair share of long-distance amour, from Casablanca to Sleepless in Seattle, but what each one needs to sustain viewing interest is a believable couple right from the word go.

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, as fledgling lovers Erin and Garrett, are just that in the gritty and witty new rom-com Going The Distance, which isn’t entirely unexpected considering the stars’ real-life, on-off relationship has sparked as much interest as their on-screen one.

Not only are they instantly credible as Erin and Garrett, but they’re also so likeable and endearing that we find ourselves totally rooting for them without question. They both play ‘average, everyday and down-to-earth’ exceptionally well, without succumbing to the gloss and promise of idyllic bliss that other rom-coms rely on.

American Teen documentary maker and director Nanette Burstein seems comfortable directing this, not making life easy for our enamoured pair, and keen to show each character’s annoying traits and faults (but not to nauseating extreme) hence upping their credibility value further.

The result is that some moments of madness are actually cringeworthy to watch, as if Erin and Garrett are two of your closest friends making fools of themselves during the course of attaining true love.

That’s not to say that Going The Distance doesn’t offer a fairly average plot – we know they are going to get together for the long term, the question is how? Nothing new there.

But it does have a couple of interesting variations on certain scenarios, where you believe one thing is bound to happen – ‘as it says here on the rom-com script’, but are pleasantly proven wrong.

The smart laughs are helped by an even smarter and clued-up supporting cast that includes Christina Applegate as Erin’s uptight and neurotic sister Corinne, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as the standard, unlucky-in-love and questionably attractive best pals of Garrett, and Jim Gaffigan as Corinne’s sex-starved, hen-pecked hubby Phil who is greeted with more than he wants of Garrett on their first encounter at his family dining table.

Not that Barrymore and Long couldn’t hold their own in the comedy arena anyway, it just makes for a stronger impact when all factors are firmly in place to deliver the punchlines.

Rom-com darling Barrymore finally gets her dream role of quirky, cutesy and ballsy, all rolled into one character, playing aspiring print reporter Erin, ironically making the shrinking world of journalism seem even more desirable to venture into.

The actress veers into type at times, as we have seen her in Never Been Kissed and 50 First Dates, but just manages to pull Erin clear of many clichés, almost creating a rom-com role reversal in parts, with behaviour normally associated with the male lead.

Similarly, Long refuses to let record label employee Garrett succumb to dopey guy-in-love, with both characters showing a fighting spirit and retaining their independent side.

The majority of big laughs actually come from Applegate, who is the queen of straight-laced gag delivery even in the midst of an apparent run-of-the-mill domestic situation.

She embodies this role completely, despite being disappointingly under-used. In fact, even though Applegate and Barrymore make an excellent sisterhood union on-screen, Applegate is guilty of outshining the lead in the majority of scenes they share.

Rom-coms, like relationships, are all about chemistry: If it isn’t there from the start, it isn’t going to be there at the end. Couple this chemistry with believable characters and modern-day woes that all can relate to, and you have a successful date movie that apeals to both sexes.

Hence, it is the likes of Going The Distance and others such as (500) Days of Summer that are opening up the genre to a wider audience and that’s not a bad thing considering the rom-com’s potential comedy spectrum.

Going The Distance comes highly recommended.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 103mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: January 31, 2011