Going the Distance
d. Nanette Burstein / 2010 / USA / 109 mins
Cinema 1 @ Cineworld West India Quay (London, UK)
On paper, Going the Distance is more or less my idea of cinematic hell. A romantic comedy about a pair of thirty-somethings (real life squeezes Drew Barrymore and Justin Long) who have a whirlwind romance in New York City, but are forced by circumstance to live on opposite sides of the country. Oh boy, just writing that sentence made me feel a little queasy.
I don’t know, maybe it was just because my expectations were just so low, but you know what, it’s actually not that bad. In fact, in some small, weird way, it’s kind of okay, and ends up being about as un-Hollywood as you’re likely to get with a Warner Bros backed rom com. Unlike The Switch, which took a ‘fresh’ (albeit highly conceited) idea and largely failed to make it seem even passable, Going the Distance manages the Herculean task of taking a horrible idea and somehow making it seem enjoyable. There is enough on display to sustain a fair few giggles, with dialogue that manages to bubble and fizz throughout (and even a handful of eminently quotable lines). It even managed to score a relatively low count of 2 on my patented eye-roll-o-meter!
And if the approach differs somewhat from The Switch, it does share a few similarities, most notably in the existence of an outperforming supporting cast. Christina Applegate is fantastic as Barrymore’s neurotic, OCD sister, whilst Justin Long’s double-threat of maladjusted best friends deliver most of the films best lines.
Make no mistake, though, this ain’t no unequivocal masterpiece. Like The Switch, there is a definite sense of entrapment at play, as the crafty studio execs make cunning (but blindingly obvious) attempts to direct films like this towards couples, presenting a slab or celluloid that is equal parts traditional rom com cheese and broad, knockabout, gross-out comedy of the decidedly male variety.
With that in mind, and perhaps unsurprisingly, both films owe something of a debt to Friends (1994-2004), with each seeming to lift central scenarios straight from the playbook of TV’s love it or loathe it classic: The Switch borrows the joke about Phoebe mistaking her family members for those who pose for the stock photographs in store-bought picture frames, whilst Going the Distance features an almost shot-for-shot remake of Ross’ bad spray tanning experience.
Going the Distance was not original, by any stretch of any imagination – it is, after all, mostly cheese and cliche – but it was also far above the cinematic kick in the teeth I had been dreading.