I’m not Justin Long’s biggest fan (or a fan of his at all, actually), but as soon as I saw the trailer for Going the Distance (the one directed by Nanette Burstein, not the National Lampoon one), I knew I had to see it. Why? Because it was actually funny. I can count on one hand the number of so-called romantic comedies that I’ve seen in the last two years that were actually funny as opposed to awkward and lame. The fact that the only other new movie I could have chosen this week was Machete, Robert Rodriguez’s total gorefest, just made my decision even easier. Here’s a quick rundown of the plot for Going the Distance:
A woman doing a temporary internship in New York and a man who just got dumped aren’t looking for a relationship, but they fall for each other anyway and decide to keep it going long distance when she moves back to San Francisco.
Using long distance relationships as a premise for a romantic comedy is a brave move considering how easy it is for telephone conversations to become boring (which is part of the reason why long distance relationships tend to fall apart in the first place). And that’s if you’re IN it. When you’re watching OTHER people talk on the phone it adds a whole new boredom dimension. So how did Going the Distance fare? Pretty well, actually.
Garrett (Justin Long) and Erin (Drew Barrymore) are much more rounded, both individually and as a couple, than most characters in romantic comedies. He has a Top Gun obsession, she’s the leading scorer on an arcade game, and neither of them really fall into the gender relationship stereotypes common in romantic comedies (i.e. insensitive slob vs. passive aggressive bitch), which is refreshing.
Their problems hang out more toward the “inappropriately public displays of affection” end of the spectrum
Their jobs also actually have a bearing on the plot, because they’re employed in dying industries (he works for a record label, she works for a newspaper) so it’s hard for them to just move to the other’s city and get a job.
Okay, so let’s just both agree to move to Nebraska and become dental hygienists
Because they spend so much time apart, we see a lot more of the supporting characters than we normally would. Garret has his roommate Dan (Charlie Day), who DJs his hookups and cries like a wounded moose, and Box (Jason Sudeikis), a cougar magnet in a Tom Selleck mustache.
And as you know, mustaches are automatically funny.
Erin has her sister Corinne (Christina Applegate) and brother-in-law Phil (Jim Gaffigan). They have an obsession with dry humping. I don’t think I’ve ever even heard that mentioned in a movie before. Corinne is also kind of a clean freak, but you would be too if what happened to her table happened to your table.
After this movie, that table needs therapy. It’s scarred for life.
As you may have guessed from my descriptions of them, all of these people are hilarious. Humor goes a long, long way toward the success of a movie that files itself under a genre with the word “comedy” in it. Too many movies (*cough* Leap Year *cough*) don’t realize this. You can put up with flaws and slight glitches in plot, characterization, pace, etc. if they throw in a joke afterward that makes you laugh so hard you forget about it. Writer Geoff LaTulippe (Jeff the Tulip?) realizes this and uses it to offset the slight boredom that sets in around the middle of the film when things start to get draggy and they’re spending all their time on the phone.
Haha, boy, there’s nothing better than watching other people watch YouTube… not
The first act of the film (i.e. the first 30 or so minutes) is the best part because both of them are still in New York, being their goofy selves, playing video games, pissing off the bar trivia lady, and going at it while Dan plays “Take My Breath Away” through the wall.
La la la, our lives are idyllic and happy… and short
But the mid-movie phone-draggyness may not be a mistake. It actually is reflective of what happens in a real long distance relationship, and helps the audience agree, by the end of the second act, that yes, something has to change. So I won’t hold this against the movie. I’ve been in a long distance relationship, so I know it would be inaccurate if they made this part as lively as the beginning. Plus they do occasionally visit, with hilarious consequences.
The table’s not the only one that’s scarred for life.
The only other blip I can think of is their unusually persistent use of the f-word. All of the characters say f*** regularly in conversation and it’s kind of jarring. Usually I save the f-word for when I really need a good swear word, and most movies do too, because using it more than a few times will get the rating bumped to R. Going the Distance is rated R for this reason. Well, that and the fact that you see Justin Long’s bum. The bum thing is necessary and funny, the swearing is not. I could’ve done without it.
The f-bomb is especially jarring coming from a suburban mommy type like Corinne
So what do I say about Going the Distance? I say go see it. It’s funny, it’s touching, and it has a realistic yet satisfying ending (as you know from my review of The Last Exorcism, a bad ending can ruin an otherwise good movie). It’s got a cross-genre appeal to it, too. College-humor comedy fans (i.e. males) will like it as much as romantic comedy fans (i.e. females), so this is a movie you can actually go to on a date without one having to drag the other.