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Going the Distance

Film Four Stars
I have to admit that I only went to this early preview screening because I managed to get free tickets and since I was always taking my wife to see dramas, thrillers and horrors, and she was just a little bit fed up of it all, I thought it about time I took her to something she'd like to see, a romantic comedy. So I grabbed the tickets and we headed off to the cinema.

What happened then was one of those revelation moments, when you're expecting to have a bad time and you have a great one, when you go on a night out you're not looking forward to and you end up having a great time and you end up at home about five in the morning, or the next day, that's exactly what happened with Going the Distance.

Plot.pngGoingtheDistance.jpgSomething surprising happened in that cinema, for it wasn't just myself or my wife that enjoyed it, the whole audience did, there were big laughs from everyone, so much so that we missed follow-up jokes for laughing, and there were intakes of breath, "ooh's" and "aah's" from people around us, and this was in Scotland at ten thirty on a Sunday morning, a hard crowd to please.

Going the Distance really captured the audience, and it's pretty clear why, this is no ordinary romantic comedy because they've written the film with real people and real situations in mind.

The film sees Garrett, played by Justin Long, break up from a relationship that he wasn't really very committed to, something his friends point out is a very common occurrence, it seems that he breezes in and out of women's lives without really attaching himself to them or investing in the relationship.

However that changes suddenly when on a night out he meets up with Erin, played by Drew Barrymore, and there's an instant attraction, so much so that they end up spending the night together. Come morning they go to breakfast together and Garrett asks for her number, and here's where the complication arises. Erin is leaving the city in six weeks, heading to San Francisco, the other side of the country.

After having so much fun together they decide to spend these six weeks without complication, enjoying each other's company before she leaves.

Six weeks later and it's time for Erin to leave but neither of them want to end the relationship, they've been having too much fun and it's clear that they now both care for each other. So they decide to keep seeing each other, a long distance relationship.

TheFilm.pngThe first thing I need to get across to you is that you really shouldn't assume this is going to be another Hollywood romantic comedy, we're not talking about the next Jennifer Aniston pulp film, rolled out on a factory line that follows every single one of the standard plot points for a just like every other film relationship. This really isn't the case here.

What we get is a rather more adult, and I don't mean that in terms of rudeness, I mean that the humour isn't puerile and disinvested in the characters and the relationships. Instead the humour comes from the characters, their connections with each other and the situations they're in.

This makes the humour more real because it feels like something that people would say and connects to the audience through the believable characters and some real life experiences.

You might think I'm going too far for a romantic comedy, but genuinely this connected with me and the audience I watched the film with and the level of audible appreciation throughout was better than a lot of big premieres I've been at in the last year.

The audience agreed, the film was funny, laugh out loud funny, so much that we were missing follow-up jokes and lines.

This is all down to two key areas I believe, one is the script which feels like it's written about real adults who have genuinely experienced long distance relationships, and the other is the chemistry between the two leads, real life couple Justin Long and Drew Barrymore.

The script delivers some key moments that you'd expect to go one way in any other film but actually surprises and turns the story a more realistic way, still eliciting plenty of laughs, but keeping the eye on the characters and their story over everything else.

Some examples of these key moments are the first utterance of the phrase "I love you", the usual falling down point for a romantic comedy, but here the film and characters keep going through it, it's not made such a big deal of as other films and I like that. Sure it's a big moment for the characters, but most of that is internal, not in an outward discussion and debate in front of everyone around them in the scene.

Or how about the moment where Garrett's best friend looks like he's about to do the usual and try to convince him not to go with the relationship and instead do something daft, overpowering every single sense he has in his own head, just as these comedic foils in the relationship comedies do. In fact this moment was so close that the tension had me willing him not to and already feeling exasperated that the moment was here. It wasn't, and the moment skipped by.

There are so many moments like this that surprise, turning from the expected norm and delivering something a little more real, a little more fresh. If you hadn't guessed by now, I loved that about the film. It makes the story and the laughs real.

The standard jokes are gone, sure there are a lot of the usual directions, but because these couple feel so real and natural together the jokes flow well with the film. They are cleverly written and woven into the story, real jokes that these characters, and perhaps real people, would genuinely say in the same situation. There are a few that are pushed a little bit further, but again they seem to come from a reality.

What makes all this even better is that the two leads have a great chemistry together, and no wonder since they are actually a real life couple. Drew Barrymore delivers such a natural and emotional performance that she does steal the film somewhat. If you didn't before you should be taking a second look at this actress and realising what she's made of. She's a great talent and you only have to look at the scene where she plays her character drunk and abusive, being dragged out of the bar, hurling insults to see what a wonderful actress she is.

Next to Barrymore's performance is Christina Applegate's. She delivers a great performance that is hilarious, her turn as the germ phobic sister grabs the laughs, and again the joke isn't overdone but when it does come it had the audience laughing out loud. The scenes with the coffee table, her comments in her sister's new apartment and the stains were fantastic.

Justin Long's character is good, as is the journey he takes, but it takes so long for his own realisation that by the time it comes I felt I'd been willing him on for ages thinking that a number of times he was about to make the same old Hollywood decisions. When it finally comes though it's a good feeling, and to have that kind of relief delivered near the end of the film is superb.

It's a great sign that I was so invested in the characters and their relationships, and willing them on and wanting events to turn out a certain way showed that I was invested all the way through. How strange is it for a romantic comedy to do that, and especially with me, someone who doesn't take to them too easily.

What's great as well is that even the ending delivered something that wasn't quite expected, so don't be thinking you know the way the story's going to turn out.

There's strong direction through the film too, and some clever editing to keep flipping back and forth between the characters in different cities, but really it's down to the writing and the acting, it's these aspects that make it work so well.

Overall.pngI was shocked not only by the way I enjoyed the film but also by the way I've written the review. I really liked the film, I liked the characters, and I wanted to see more of them, indeed I still do, and it was a joy to watch Drew Barrymore and Christina Applegate.

The writing was clever and really captured the characters, their relationships, the delicate moments between two people, the subtlety of jealousy and uncertainty over such a distance and time, and the natural humour of the situations.

Amazingly it managed to avoid clichés, especially Hollywood clichés, and deliver something enjoyable and entertaining, enough to make a Scottish Sunday morning audience laugh out loud and capture their imagination and affection. We really did laugh, and we really did enjoy the film.

Going the Distance surprised me for so many reasons, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Do not lump this with any other romantic comedies, I do urge you, let it stand alone and enjoy.

UK IMDB Film Details



Wow Richard, what a great review! I'd also felt that this film would be another boring romantic comedy but after reading your review i think i'm going to give it a shot. Thanks!

Thanks Michelle, that's great to hear!

The key thing to remember is I really don't take to American comedy and in particular American romantic comedies very well, but this film really does do something different and captures two very natural performances and some strong, realistic scripting.

Let me know what you think, especially if you feel it stands apart from the standard romantic comedy.



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