After reading some interesting reviews that suggested that Nanette Burstein’s Going the Distance was better than it appeared from the trailers, I actually harbored a degree of hope upon finally seeing it. Well, the absolute best I can say is that it was reasonably painless most of the time—and that its best gag inspired me to want to take a certain friend of mine to a driving range and put the gag into practice the next time he is compelled to answer a text message in mid-conversation. Neither of these are what I would call sterling recommendations.
This is Romcom 101, with a plot so thin that it’s really just a premise. All the tropes are in place, from the wacky best friends of the hero to the quirky family of the heroine to the penultimate gloomy reel. It operates on the idea that if you take that formula and slather a coat of ersatz Judd Apatow raunch on top of it, pleasant leads like Drew Barrymore and Justin Long will carry the day. Nerts, as they used to say in the 1930s. Barrymore and Long are likable, but they aren’t likable enough to pull off this screenplay.
Barrymore plays Erin, a newspaper-reporter intern at a major New York City paper, whose internship is ending in six weeks. Naturally, this means she’ll meet cute—over a video game—with record promoter Garrett (Long), who has been freshly dumped by his latest girlfriend. It follows—thanks to convenient scripting—that the two will fall in love despite the finite nature of her tenure. That’s it, and you knew it going in. The rest of the film details their attempts to keep the relationship afloat via long distance. With a really witty script, this might have worked. But it soon transpires that first-time screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe is more up on broad gags than wit and more concerned with mechanics than characters.
Still, the film isn’t a train wreck. It might have been more interesting if it had been. However, there are moments of genuine charm that come through every so often. There are even occasional gags and one-liners that filter through the generally pedestrian narrative. This means it’s not as lame as most of this year’s romantic comedies or as obnoxious as the rest. Now, whether that’s recommendation enough to go see it is up to you. Rated R for sexual content, including dialogue, language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity.