By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders
Going the Distance
I expect that most relationship movies aren’t going to be as creative as (500) Days of Summer, as emotional as The Notebook or as profound as About a Boy. Most won’t even be as perceptive as He’s Just Not That Into You. As long as it’s not obnoxious I’m usually okay. Going the Distance is not obnoxious. It’s got that going for it.
Review: Going the Distance
It deals with real relationship games in basic movie terms. A guy doesn’t understand a woman’s contradictions. Also, in case you didn’t know, men won’t stop for directions when they’re lost. That’s the setup for Justin Long’s character. Drew Barrymore’s gets a more businesslike introduction.
The movie is very overtly trying to deal in Judd Apatow territory with naturalistic speech, what’s either a lot of improvisation or scripted to look like improvisation, lots of profanity and random pop culture references. They even smoke a bong so they’re really just copying every aspect of the Apatow formula.
I know they think they’re playing along with the popular kids, and it’s cute. They’re all nice people and none of it’s bad or boring. I just feel sorry for them. They’re either trying to copy someone else’s personality or they mistakenly think they’re being original. At least they don’t have sex with bras on. That’s realistic.
They’ve got good people doing stock roles. That’s the business. They’ve got to work and they’re following orders. He’s got the slob best friends who give him advice because they know everything. One of them is named Box. Seriously, Box? She’s got the bitter married sister.
Their meeting is cute, bonding over a video game. That’s way better than the usual contrived happenstance meetings. I’d like to meet someone that way. I’d also like to have rock hard abs like Justin Long no matter how many pitchers of beer he drinks, but no matter how much I run, I don’t. In the movie, he’s actually the totally ripped guy worrying about carbs.
The sweet parts are really sweet. You can tell there’s some genuine emotion as two actual lovers play the prospect of being apart. The film does keep them apart and deals with that, so it doesn’t cheat. It also knowingly avoids some of the most egregious rom-com plot points so that’s cool. It does show people who don’t always say the right thing but instead of freaking out about misinterpretations, they keep talking about it and support each other. That’s good.
Although, both characters are terrible in business. She’s trying to get a journalism job but only tries newspapers. The movie is modern enough to acknowledge that newspapers are losing business, but she never tries any other form of modern journalism. He’s scouting for new jobs while in the office of his current job. Dude, do that on your own time. And for people scrimping and saving for long distance plane tickets, they sure spend a lot of money buying shots and pitchers at expensive New York and San Francisco bars.
It’s definitely no Apatow movie or even a Working Title level romance, but it’s way better than a Nora Ephron, a Matthew McConaughey or whatever the latest vehicle for one of America’s Sweethearts is. It would be fine in a vacuum but I only see it in context. Everything exists in the world of film to me.
There is a spray tan joke in the movie. You know, they did a spray tan joke on Friends. I think a lot of people saw that. It may be time to retire the spray tan joke.