Last night, KC and I went to see Drew Barrymore and Justin Long in Going the Distance, a romantic comedy about a long-distance relationship.
I prefer to see movies on the weekend, where I don’t feel rushed to get other things done around them, but we figured if we were going to go, we’d better hurry, since it had been out for two weeks and it wasn’t doing well. (So far, reported box office is half of its budget, and there’s a lot more competition coming up in the next few weeks.) I can see why.
Although I enjoyed seeing it, it wasn’t very memorable or outstanding. On the plus side, it’s cute, often funny, and has a great cast. On the minus, it was much cruder than I expected, especially given the audience the ads seemed to be targeting (as can be seen in the trailer, shown here).
The movie also doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself. The first half is stronger than the second. Once the two are handling their bi-coastal relationship, the actions become more predictable, and the pace of the movie seems to slow down, as we know what’s going to happen. There are moments of humor, but we began shifting in our chairs a bit, waiting for the film to get where we knew it was going.
While I appreciated seeing so many different female roles (a hallmark lately of Barrymore’s movie choices), there were too many characters in the film. (And they all drink all the time.) A co-worker of Long’s who’s been in a long-distance relationship for a while has potential, but it’s never used, and then she’s thrown away as part of a lazy screenwriter trick to cause jealousy. I should have known that was coming, though, as Leighton Meester (Blair on Gossip Girl) is wasted as Long’s first, briefly shown girlfriend. The worst part of her scene is that she says she was lying when she said she didn’t want a present. I *hate* those stupid gift games and things that make guys not trust women they’re dating.
I’m also tired of “romances” where the guy makes all the right decisions for the couple and “friendships” where the buddies aren’t at all helpful with a new relationship. But while I likely won’t find this worth owning on DVD, there were a lot of neat little bits. Like seeing Natalie Morales briefly as one of Barrymore’s co-workers, or Kristen Schaal as the trivia-night bartender. Or the way Long and Barrymore first meet over an old-school Centipede game. Or how their relationship is current, carried on via texting and internet video.
Barrymore’s not afraid to look scraggily when she needs to (such as on the morning after), and the movie is instantly quotable, whether talking about having a friend “DJ your hookup” or asking “how does somebody like you end up getting dumped and laid in the same night?” The jokes about having a life soundtrack were particularly funny, satirizing the way we consider music, on top of having a good movie soundtrack, featuring classics like “Don’t Get Me Wrong” and “Just Like Heaven” at key moments.
Lots of attention is paid to the two lead’s career choices, which are particularly interesting. She dreams of being a journalist — her summer grad school internship at a New York paper is why the two meet in “his” city — even though the newspaper industry is on its last legs. He’s some kind of staffer/talent scout at a small record label. (We see more about her career dreams than his, interestingly.) Although these are both widely considered to be dying industries, they’re still glamourous jobs, suitable for the big screen. And the economic troubles involved in doing things with such limited outlets play a major plot point: that’s why neither can pick up and easily move to be with the other.
At $10 a ticket (although thankfully we had a two-for-one deal), I can understand why middle-of-the-road comedies like this, especially those that aim younger, just don’t break through. The leads are likable, and this would be fun to watch on TV on a Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing else to do, but it’s not quite good enough to seek out and own. You can find out more at the official website.