Friday, September 17, 2010

"Going the Distance" does just that, surprisingly

Going the Distance (2010)
109 min., rated R.
Grade: B +

"Going the Distance" confirms the fact that the romantic-comedy genre still has a little life yet. In fact, it's more honest than most in a timely rececession-era world with two smart, funny people that talk like real people and deal with real people problems. Erin (Drew Barrymore), who's 31, is wrapping up her summer internship at “The New York Sentinel” and would love a permanent position there. Garrett (Justin Long) works for a small N.Y. record label but isn't satisfied with the bands he has to represent. The two thirtysomethings meet cute at a bar over their bond of the videogame “Centipede,” get drunk and hook up, but want something more by morning. Six blissful week later, and about to move to the West Coast to finish grad school, Erin agrees to a long-distance relationship with Garrett. They want to keep it light and disease-free, but they become horny, jealous, and frustrated. 

Sweet but never sentimental, "Going the Distance" is kept in check by some raunchy stuff (sexual, not scatological, if you were wondering). There is some standard rom-com conflict in place, and a trip to the airport that occurs in the first half, but it all goes in a more authentic and understated direction. None of those artificial break-ups or bets exist here. There's even a sex-on-the-kitchen-table gag that doesn't go for the obvious gross-out. Doc filmmaker Nanette Burstein makes her first fiction debut, working from Geoff LaTulippe's first script, which is light and often witty and made even wittier by the cast's delivery. 

Barrymore is her lovable self but is refreshingly liberated and spiky, delivering much of the delightful raunch (uncensored conversations about oral sex and dry humping), and Long is still that likable boyish-puppy Mac Guy. The couple has an easy, real chemistry (much like Barrymore has shared with Adam Sandler and Jimmy Fallon) and it probably doesn't hurt that these two actually dated in real life. And by the end, we're pulling for Erin and Garrett to stay together, which may be predictable, but isn't that integral in the genre? Christina Applegate is comically endowed like a tack as Erin's uptight sister; Jim Gaffigan is a hoot as her husband; and Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day alternate between funny and annoying as Garrett's slovenly best dude friends who, respectively, has a mustache to attract older women and dee-jays Garrett's hookups. 

"Going the Distance" may not go all the way, but it's not pedestrian or forgettable like "Leap Year," "The Back-up Plan," or "The Bounty Hunter," so you could call it a genre saver. 

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