A solid underpinning of the reality of these economic times makes GOING THE DISTANCE more than just another rom-com. A pair of charismatic leads in Drew Barrymore and Justin Long invest the career-stymied lovers with real chemistry as well as a real depth of feeling that becomes more that just physical attraction. Though there is plenty of that as well as belly laughs.
Shes Erin, a 31-year-old summer intern at the fictional New York Sentinel. Hes Garrett, a mid-level drone at a record label that is more interested in the bottom line than promoting the edgy trailblazers Garrett loves. Theyre also each coming off relationships that havent worked out, Erin after putting her career and education on hold to be with the guy she loved. Garretts with his complete mystification over the secret language of women who say one thing but mean another. When they meet, its a one-night stand that turns into something more. Maybe its the way Erin isnt the clingy sort of gal that Garrett has been dating, as demonstrated by the way she tries to sneak out after their first night together. Maybe its the way she says exactly what shes thinking, and doesnt hate his friends with iffy boundaries. The problem is that Erin will be leaving in six weeks to return to school at Stanford. And maybe thats the reason that they can be so honest with each other, knowing that neither is risking anything with this summer fling. Only once the summer is over, their feelings arent. Thus begins a long-distance relationship sustained with phone calls, text messages, web cams that let them get to know each other out of the sack, and visits that teeter on the farther shore of disaster. Neither of them know what theyre getting into, but neither of them can stand the thought of saying goodbye.
His sweetly boorish friends, Box and Dan (Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day), form a veritable Greek chorus of opinions about that, as well as why there are no baby pigeons to be seen in New York, and why a mustache is a time machine under the right circumstances. Her sister, Corrinne (Christina Applegate), an acerbic but caring compulsive cleaner, bites her tongue, mostly, about what Erin should do while also sharing way too much information about her own relationship with her husband (James Gaffigan), a man also given to sharing too much, but less deliberately.
There is nothing coy about the carnal longings these two share for one another. The sex is hot, the talk hotter, and thanks to smart, sharp writing, it has a refreshing authenticity to it, no matter how graphic it becomes, illuminating how delighted these two are with one another. Also authentic is Barrymore who is both sweet and earthy, and Long, who has a way with hip sincerity.
There is also nothing coy about why theyre apart. With both of them pursuing careers they love in fields that are shrinking, the job options are virtually non-existent. First-time screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe keeps things moving by maintaining the tension these two people, who seem to be perfect for each other, have in not wanting to choose between love and career. It gives the story a bittersweet tone as the hope that love will always find a way waxes and wanes with the lovers wisecracking and weeping and being blindsided by their emotional rollercoaster.
LaTulippe also smartly and subtly poses the tantalizing idea that their very separation is the reason Erin and Garret work because there is no day-to-day routine, no bad moods, no boredom with which to deal. Thats summed up with a perfectly realized, wickedly funny scene of desperate husbands, with death in the eyes in their otherwise placid faces, ripping Garret a new one for giving them a hopeless romantic ideal to live up to with their wives. His best work, though, might just be in avoiding, thanks to Long, the worst excesses of the hackneyed ploys inherent in Garretts trip to a tanning salon. LaTulippe actually finds a way to build on it with nice call-outs when least expected.
Unlike most films of this kind, the ending is not telegraphed from the first scene. Or even the second, third, or twentieth. Far from insulting the audiences intelligence with easy answers or a deus ex machina, it keeps things up in the air, literally and figuratively until the very end. And then it delivers an ending that works on every level.