Monday, September 13, 2010

Love: Going The Distance

Going the Distance is everything that a good romantic comedy should be. It’s so good, that I have a hard time putting it under such a tired, annoying genre label because it is highly different, hilarious, heartfelt, sexy, and more realistic than any of the current “neorealist” favorite, Winter’s Bone

The story itself isn’t really that innovative, and yes, as other critics will tell you, it’s entirely predictable. Boy (Justin Long as Garrett) and Girl (Drew Barrymore as Erin) meet. The timing is all off, as Girl is heading back to San Francisco. The short time span of their tryst allows them both to be free of the usual constraints of dating and free about who they are, allowing a true love to blossom, making that final break-up before she leaves impossible. They try to make it work long distance, only to find that far away not easy, that loving some is tough, and that being an adult gets in the way of everything. I’ll let you guess whether or not they make it in the end. 

Imagine that set-up with Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher with Seth Rogan and Jay Baruchel as cohorts. She’s the neurotic business woman with a stellar career that has inadvertently made her a total whiny bitch. He’s been floating by on some meaningless jobs, an immature drifter that except for his abs and lost boyhood dreams, makes him pretty unlikeable. They meet, and despite their constant dismissal of each other, they need each other, the one to loosen up, the other to grow up. Her prissy friends and his disgusting misogynistic friends get in the mix, giving out the wrong advice until finally, against all odds, we get a match made in heaven. I have enjoyed some of these tired concepts movies for what they are, but duh, the mere shells of characters, combined with the formulaic plot is entirely unsatisfying. I don’t relate to this sort of woman, who miraculously seems to always have an amazing creative job by the age of 25, who despite her beauty, smarts, and money is only able to bag the most immature dude out there, adding the raising of his maturity level to her litany of tasks.

But Drew Barrymore’s Erin is a girl I know. She too is in her mid to late twenties, but instead of that high paying magazine job, is a struggling intern in a dying occupation, trying to make use of her smarts and creativity, wondering if she has the talent to make it. She waits tables when she’s not working, likes good music, laughs too loud, and does in fact get sad and has to have a beer once in awhile, and despite all this vulnerability, is a total ass kicking woman who initially wins the heart of Garrett by holding the top score on an old arcade game in a bar. Justin Long’s Garrett, is another breath of fresh air. He’s got a job, a cool job in fact. He’s still a clueless boy, but is clueless in the innocent, realistic ways that about 90% of guys under 30 are. He too is smart, funny, and sweet. Garrett’s network of friends is equally impressive for this type of film. SNL’s Jason Sudeikis and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Charlie Day have their gross out guy moments, but it’s never extreme, again simply realistic (realistic that is, if you happened to be surrounded by truly hilarious people). But Sudeikis and Day also get serious when they have to, get caring when they have to, and only add to Garrett’s appeal. No characters are delegated to the back seat, but are each fully realized. 

This attention to character development makes both Erin and Garrett instantly appealing and relatable. Both of these characters have actual immaturities that every twenty something experiences. Both make mistakes, but you’re never left wondering why they should be together. Combine that with on again off again off screen lovers Barrymore and Long’s intense chemistry, some serious hilarity, and a snappy script, and you get something that is a true pleasure to watch. I remember hearing Barrymore say in an interview that this film would always be special because it was a like a diary of the emotions of her friendship with Long, and this passion is clear in every shot of the movie. Many people I’ve talked to find Barrymore and Long annoying, and I will tell you right now that if that’s true, than this is not the movie for you. It does not, however, mean that it’s a bad movie. It’s the same reason I don’t watch yet respect Tom Hanks movies, but that’s a story for another time.

Comedies, especially romantic ones, are hardly ever given proper credit. There are a few like Annie Hall or The Big Lebowski (two of my favorites)  that seem to have achieved higher levels of film cred due to not only their quality, but the somewhat high brow nature of the films themselves, making it ok to like that sort of thing without someone making a judgment call about your taste levels. But admitting to like a recent romantic comedy is nearly as damning as admitting you like the Twilight series, arguably because romcoms lately are usually crap. Yet Going the Distance might be the game changer of this genre, more Goodbye Girl than He’s Just Not That Into You. It’s unfortunate that this film did so poorly at the box office, solidifying to the studios once again, that the public would rather watch Heigl high jinks than something that might be great. 

1 comment:

  1. Really very romantic.Just been to see this film before its official release and really, really enjoyed it. As the trailer suggests it's about a long distance relationship. The storyline is pretty straightforward. It's not the type of film that will have lots of complicated twists and turns, so in that context it's fairly predictable, but it's really well acted by the main characters, particularly Justin Long, Drew Barrymore and Christin Applegate.



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