Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Movie Review: Going the Distance

Going the Distance ** ½
Directed by:
Nanette Burstein.
Written By: Geoff LaTulippe.
Starring: Drew Barrymore (Erin), Justin Long (Garrett), Charlie Day (Dan), Jason Sudeikis (Box), Christina Applegate (Corinne), Ron Livingston (Will), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Damon), Jim Gaffigan (Phil), Natalie Morales (Brandy), Kelli Garner (Brianna), June Diane Raphael (Karen), Rob Riggle (Ron), Sarah Burns (Harper), Leighton Meester (Amy).

Whether or not it’s because they are a real couple or not, Justin Long and Drew Barrymore have a natural chemistry together that works. You accept them as a couple in a relationship in Going the Distance. The problem is that while I was watching the movie, I kept thinking that I would love to see them together in a movie. While that may sound strange, I don’t think it is, because Long and Barrymore are quite good in a movie that doesn’t deserve them to be. They are the only reason to see the film, which is just another romantic comedy that hit all the clichés right on the head.

Long plays a low level record executive in New York, who meets Barrymore, a newspaper intern, while in a bar. They bond over their mutual love for the arcade game Centipede, and their one night stand turns into a relationship. The problem is that Barrymore is only in town for another six weeks before returning to school in Stanford (for those you wondering, yes they address the fact that Barrymore is older than the normal college student). But when those six weeks are up, they decide they want to keep seeing each other - so they decide to try a long distance relationship. And that’s when things get complicated.

The movie hits all the bases you would expect it to. Long finds solace in his friends - the lovable losers played by Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, while Barrymore hangs out with her smart alec sister Christina Applegate. There are threats to their relationship on both sides as both have hot co-workers (Kelli Garner and Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who may look pretty good when the two have to go months without having sex. You get the picture. Romantic comedies have been living off these clichés since the beginning of cinematic history.

The director of the movie is Nanette Burstein, who up until now had made her living making documentaries (the best of which is probably The Kid Stays in the Picture about uber-producer Robert Evans). But you couldn’t tell that she is a documentary filmmaker - the film feels like just another romantic comedy. Yes, Burstein knows how to frame a shot and direct a scene, but the film still feels rather standard issue.

The reason to see the movie is for Long and Barrymore. They are good together, and the film is at its best when it’s at its most relaxed, and just lets the two of them play off each other. Their best scenes have an improvisational feel to them. And it should be mentioned that Applegate is also quite good as Barrymore’s sister. Trust me, I’ve seen my wife and her sister interact with each other enough to know when sister feel natural, and they do. Less successful is Day and Sudeikis, who are probably about as good as they could be given what they had to work with, but when they’re on the screen, it does feel as if they are simply doing a comedy sketch.
The bottom line is that without Barrymore and Long (and to a lesser extent Applegate) there would no real reason to see the movie. With them, the film never really becomes a good movie, but it is a pleasant way to kill two hours. To someone who is more inclined to like romantic comedies they would probably like the movie more. Personally, I’ve kind of had it with the whole genre, so while Going the Distance is better than most recent entries in the genre, I can’t really say that it is a good movie.

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