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Going the Distance

Going the Distance

Rated R, 102 min. Directed by Nanette Burstein. Starring Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate, Jim Gaffigan, Ron Livingston.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 3, 2010

Going the Distance doesn’t. Go the distance, that is. The film is a wan romantic comedy about the difficulties inherent in long-distance relationships and touches on every cliché in the handbook. Still, Barrymore’s charm should be enough to make any so-so rom-com at least mildly passable – or at least it has worked that way in the past. But Going the Distance has a tin ear and sullied eye: Nothing sounds or looks very good. In making the transition to narrative filmmaking, former documentarian Burstein (the excellent On the Ropes and the not-so-excellent American Teen) seems to have few trustworthy instincts. The script by first-time screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe offers only a litany of familiar plot points: disapproving friends and relatives, phone sex, constant text messages, visits every few months, and panic that the other may be out trolling for a new love connection. Nevertheless, this could have been mindlessly pleasant but for the disastrous decision to insert lots of vulgarity. How much of it is in the script and how much is Burstein’s attempt to replicate the “sweet raunch” (as a friend of mine put it) of Judd Apatow’s comedies is unknown. The raunch in Going the Distance seems totally inappropriate and unnecessary and drags something innocuous into off-putting territory. Oftentimes, the moments are totally tangential asides about such things as dry-humping and oral sex. Frequently, the vulgarity is totally gratuitous, as when Barrymore’s feisty Erin tells someone to suck her dick. The bulk of the vulgarity comes out of the mouths of friends Dan and Box (Day and Sudeikis), who seem to riff on nothing but disgusting topics. Despite all this, Barrymore and (“Mac Guy”) Long, as boyfriend Garrett, share some winning scenes, although Barrymore would be better served in the long run by pairing with male co-stars who are fully equal to her talent. Just look at all the kudos Barrymore received last year when she paired with Jessica Lange and stole our hearts as Little Edie in the HBO production of Grey Gardens.
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