In the cinema of Hollywood, finding a film that is not about love presents a real challenge. We’ve had so-called “true love” (The Notebook) and the twisted “I’m so in love with you, I want to eat you” love (Twilight). We’ve had love based on “intense experiences” (Speed), the “oops, we’ve made a baby” love (Knocked Up). Most prolifically, we’ve had gun love (anything with Arnie). But in thinking about love and the way it is portrayed by the medium that has captured out hearts, have we ever really had “Honest” love? And as it is in life, love in the movies is not an easy thing to handle; many films fall short in terms of story, believability or in casting a leading couple with minimal chemistry. Going the Distance proves it can be done right.
With her lovable laugh and down-to-earth charisma, Drew Barrymore embodies Erin, a lady trifecta – smart, pretty and funny. She’s a grad student on her way to making her name in journalism, but the bitterness of the print industry is taking its toll. When she meets a friendly guy named Garrett (Justin Long) they are both merely looking to put a Band-Aid on the bullet-holes in their lives with a one night stand, but find that geeking out together for more than one night is ultimately, the best remedy. With help from Garret’s crude housemate Dan (Charlie Day) and sarcastic friend Box (Jason Sudeikis), Erin and Garrett outline their need to keep things simple, but find themselves unable to tear themselves away from each other.
Going the Distance belongs to Drew Barrymore and Justin Long; their strong chemistry — a result of their off-screen history together — is what makes the film so convincing. We’re caught up in their relationship as it grows, taking until the midpoint of this movie before the hinge swings and they are forced apart. This alone marks a departure from most romantic films where love is presented instantly — think Twilight — and we’re expected to believe it. They find common ground through video games, movies and music, and like most lasting couples they realise they are each other’s their favourite person in the world. Then, of course, comes the complication.
When Erin lands her dream job in L.A, we trip between the coasts of the U.S as they go the distance and try to sustain a healthy, passionate relationship from different time zones. Here, we have a couple who are not super good-looking, super-talented nor super-spies/assassins. What we do have are two people who find a connection and try to nurture it despite the forces of jobs, money, family, friends, temptations and of course, distance. Without being pressured into a hokey Hollywood ending, the two never compromise their individuality as they have a genuine crack at making a life together.
First time screenwriter Geoff LaTuillipe doesn’t invent anything new here, but his realistic take on love proves that we can still be reminded why something tried and true – like a romantic comedy — can still make us warm and fuzzy inside. Director Nannette Burnstein (American Teen) has found the missing beat between a standard Hollywood rom-com and how people actually are.
Going the Distance will hopefully reach cult status as an authentic romantic comedy. Whilst the influence of Judd Apatow’s style is here — particularly in demi-crude comedy and the relationship between Erin and her sister (Christina Applegate) — this is an original film that gets it right when it comes to exploiting both love and laughs.