When the trailers for “Going the Distance” first premiered, a glimmer of hope for the future of rom-coms emerged from the depths of this disappointing genre. First of all, Katherine Heigl was nowhere to be found — a key ingredient for the potential success of any film. Secondly, the concept of the movie seemed to actually apply to real life. Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, but girl has a real life and job and will be moving far, far away to pursue her career. The characters weren’t flawed by ridiculous job titles (bounty hunter…really?), unrealistic goals (to win a bet) or debilitating character flaws (workaholic, pushover, etc…). It seemed that for once, Hollywood passed up on the smoke and mirrors for a no-bullshit take on what it’s really like to be in love in the 21st century.
Enter Drew Barrymore and Justin Long — two of the most likeable actors in Hollywood, and real life on-again, off-again couple. Barrymore is the funny girl you could grab a beer with, while Long always follows through with his loveable sense of humor and overall sexy nerd appeal. In reality, and for “Going the Distance” producers New Line Cinema, it was a match made in Hollywood heaven. Even better, the couple, who dated for over a year but broke it off in 2008, started filming the comedy in ‘09 realizing their off-camera chemistry would really add to the honesty of the film. Could these two be any cooler?
“Going the Distance” walks us through the ordinary 21st century relationship between Erin and Garrett as they grapple with the difficulties of long distance love. Erin, a struggling newspaper reporter, is the average Joe’s fantasy girl. She plays touch football with the guys, smears chicken wing sauce all over her adorable face, and holds the intimidating high score to the arcade game at their local hangout. Garrett is charming and chill, with good intentions and even funnier friends, but he just hasn’t found the right girl yet. Soon, they find each other and fall into the easy breezy relationship that both of them (and all of us) have been looking for. As we all know, relationships in this day and age are anything but sunshine and daisies, and unfortunately, a ticking clock is placed on Garrett and Erin’s romantic romp with the anticipation that Erin has to move back to San Francisco to finish grad school. Bummer.
Of course, six weeks too soon, Garrett drives Erin to the airport for their final goodbye, and as he watches her walk out of his life, he realizes he might be losing the girl of his dreams. And this, my friends, is where the film takes a dive from reality, and lands in a fluffy pile of clichés. Watching what becomes of their long distance love is as cute as a bushel of bunnies, but for those of us who have struggled and fought for a long-distance relationship, their problems seem like a walk in the park compared to the difficulties that often surface among real life couples. True, the film tackles issues that are relevant today, from the jobless-state of our current economy to the complications texting and technology have added to the dating world. However, from two actors who are so down to earth, it would have been nice to see some of the gritty pain that comes from missing someone terribly. “Going the Distance” is a bit of a tease, saying one thing, but acting on another. The film tells us that long distance relationships are hard, and that trust, communication, and commitment are things you have to work for every day. But despite its message, the film doesn’t make it seem that difficult.
All in all, it’s cute, it’s light, and at times it’s absolutely hilarious. But from a real life couple that’s so fascinating, the love story between Drew Barrymore and Justin Long might have been a better take on the trials of real life romance than what’s been portrayed in this latest chick-flick. Until then, hop off the bitter train and enjoy this film for what it is — a 109-minute escape into the relationship we all wish we had.