A guy (Justin Long) and a gal (Drew Barrymore) try to keep their love alive as they shuttle back and forth between New York and San Francisco to see one another.

A collection of romantic movie clichés.

When the four stars of Sex and the City got potty-mouthed it seemed to suggest, at times powerfully, that we hide behind polite talk when sometimes it’s better, not to mention more emotionally honest, to be blunt. Of course the shock factor that comes with very glamorous types getting all down and dirty about getting down and dirty is a comic treasure that, at least, for that particular franchise, never seemed to get mined out.

Going the Distance, a new romantic comedy from doco director Nannette Burstein, is pretty much wall to wall with dirty talk, but it doesn’t seem to have a political or social point to make; which makes it feel a little empty, since there’s nothing worse than a joke without a target. When the characters here get together over a drink (which they do often) their conversation goes two ways – they complain about the routine hassles that make up the day to day of relationships, or else they’re talking about the clumsy, messy world of sex with partners you’re not too sure about (or are just plain tired of). Early on there’s a scene between two sisters Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Corinne (Christina Applegate). Erin is a San Franciscan, journalism major who’s found herself in a bi-coastal relationship with a NY record company flack, Garrett (Justin Long). Corinne is married. When they talk about sex there’s joy in it; they talk about their needs. Erin makes a gag about oral sex – how men always look for approval during the act, when, y’know they should just get on with the job (ahem, receiving, not giving).

But then, there is a chance I missed something here; the script by Geoff LaTulippe seems nothing less than a collection of romantic movie clichés, so there is a chance that Going the Distance is nothing less than a satire on a certain kind of sweet natured rom-com. (Is that why everyone here seems so sour?)

Still, if that’s true there’s one whopping disconnect between director and writer in finding a tone that’s self-conscious and one out to deliver the little feathery kisses of delight that the rom-com fan base craves. For instance, Burstein certainly knows the formal visual clichés herself; and she puts them into service here with a sincerity that’s scary. Erin and Garrett’s 'falling in love’ beat is dispensed with a '70s-like montage of cutesy 'couple’ moments; while an upbeat track coughs happy spasms on the soundtrack, our lovers play, giggle and tickle each other in a crushingly banal series of back-drops: park, beach, park, beach... This is all very nice, but since Barrymore is so appealing and her performance so heartfelt, we don’t really want to not invest in it all turning out fine.

As for the 'deeper’ issues of the script, like creating conflict from basic life choices, it seems more like the kind of stuff found in a teen mag advice column. The characters here never really come alive as people; but perhaps that’s a good thing, since it’s easier to invest in them as shallow representations of 'types’ – the ambitious woman, the non-commital man – than if they were more complex. If they were, the movie would have to deal with the deep, hard to grasp stuff of complex human relationships. But then, that’s no fun, since rom-coms aren’t really meant to be about how things are; they’re about how we’d like things to turn out.


1 hour 42 min
In Cinemas 02 September 2010,
Wed, 02/02/2011 - 11