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Going The Distance

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Going The Distance

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Taking that all-important next step in a relationship isn't so easy when two people live on opposite sides of a continent. That's the premise of this romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, who are on-off lovers in real life and bring that neurosis to the screen without going too far into the realms of the ridiculous. Apart from the odd airplane trip, their feet stay firmly on the ground which makes this a refreshing break from the Hollywood norm where the unlikeliest of obstacles can throw love off course.

Erin (Barrymore) is in her 30s and feels she is 'behind in life' because of a badly timed relationship in her youth. She's doing a summer internship at a prestigious New York newspaper in the futile hope of landing a permanent job and realising her ambition of becoming a journalist. During her stay, she meets music company exec Garrett (Long) in a bar, as you do. He's just been dumped by his girlfriend for neglecting to buy her a birthday gift, even though 'she said she didn't want anything'. (Duh...) Garrett is well-meaning, but evidently, he isn't the sharing type.

It's a distinctly unromantic beginning as Erin falls into bed with Garrett just because she's in a reckless mood. However, there is a natural, cosy warmth between Barrymore and Long which is plain to see from the start and helps in getting over the occasional bump in the story. There's no escaping the classic 'falling in love' montage; they stroll through the city, hold hands, gaze at each other, laugh out loud and gaze a bit more. Thankfully, this phase passes by quickly, then Erin is faced with having to return to California to complete her studies. Cue the awkwardness.

If this were one of those old-fashioned love stories marked by grand gestures, Garrett would chase Erin to the airport and ask her to stay. In fact, Garrett chases Erin to the airport and, uh, you know, hey, after a bit of, you know, fumbling over the right words, he asks if it would be cool, if they, like, you know, kept in touch online, or something? Of course Erin is all for it, but what makes the separation interesting is that the terms of the relationship haven't been set and neither wants to be the one who raises the subject. Essentially, the geographical distance between them only underlines the emotional distance, which is created because both are quite settled where they are and fear risking that for something more.

This stop-and-start journey to true love is endearing and funny because it feels true. It's just a shame director Nanette Burnstein doesn't fully trust that, instead falling back on lazy jokes. Christina Applegate is a walking cliché as Erin's uptight sister who espouses the benefits of 'dry humping' after the couple get sweaty on her dining table. Meanwhile, Garrett seeks advice from familiarly slobby pals Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day. Their chats have a loose, improvised feel, which is easy to engage with, but the gags can feel overly crude. On the other hand, a phone sex scene between Barrymore and Long is cringingly amusing. Those rough edges are easier to forgive because Barrymore and Long have a way of bringing out the silliness in each other and luckily, that kind of chemistry goes a long way.


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