Going the Distance: Blowing away the competition…in awkwardness

Posted on 25 August 2010 by Quaid

Hey everyone, Quaid here to introduce you to a new and talented ChopShop writer.  Chloe G. is one of the most prolific novelists and writers in the universe…in her own head.  And her unique ability to pick apart characters and tell us what the movie should have been will no doubt become one of the many reasons our awesome readers bother to check out the site.  So without further ado, here’s Chloe’s take on Drew Barrymore’s newest romantic comedy in which she beds the Mac guy.

Drew Barrymore confuses me. It’s evident from her professional success that she is a capable, intelligent, driven woman who plans and executes her projects well. The thing is, she then goes on to out-awkward such awkward genius as Ben Stiller or Jason Bateman, and does it with such triumph and consistency that you can’t help but wonder if she can do anything else. Going the Distance offers no new perspective on her talents, but mix her with Justin Long (best known as “Mac,” the attractive, super-hip, plaid-shirt-wearing, quintessentially Apple television spokesman), hit him in the face with a door, and, presto!, we’ve got ourselves a comedy.

So let’s tee this up. Garrett (played by Long) gets dumped by his drama diva girlfriend and goes out with his buddies to drink away his not-so-sorrows. He’s sad. Really he is. Enter Erin (Barrymore) fresh off being ignored and under-appreciated by her boss (at 31, she’s an intern at a newspaper) and in no need of male company thank-you-very-much. One thing leads to another and they end up back at his apartment making out to a Top Gun soundtrack his clearly-audible roommate has selected for the occasion. Whatever. Privacy and modesty are clearly never at issue in this movie. She’s game if he is.

At breakfast the next morning, she reveals that she is leaving her New York internship in just six weeks to return to her California college. They can see each other again, but they can’t possibly get serious.  So they spend the next six weeks getting serious, in a lovely montage of falling-in-love scenes, culminating in a conversation about ‘kids someday’, growing old together, and marrying your best friend.

Whoa. This got heavy all of a sudden. Cue the sex jokes.

The meat of the movie concerns the challenges of a long-distance relationship, but the quality of it doesn’t alter much from the opening sequence. Distance exhausts its length without ever deciding if it wants to grow up to be a comedy or a romance. It can’t even decide what kind of comedy it wants to be.  The movie has enough slapstick and bawdy bathroom/sexual humor to justify itself, but it also relies heavily on the Barrymore-expected social awkwardness as well as a quick-witted, real-”people-aren’t-really-that-funny” script. Instead of settling on a particular brand of comedy, the movie went buffet-style in a no lines, no limits, no-holds-barred manner that’s always grasping for the edge of inappropriate just so you can watch it catapult – in slow motion – over said edge. I’ll admit it – it made me cringe. More than once.

On the other side, though, is a sincere romance. Two people. Falling in love. Trying to make life work when the options just don’t present themselves. Here, Long out-plays Barrymore, selling Garrett as a real guy who – even if he does have a handprint-shaped tan line on his butt (oh, look!) – is really in love and feels real pain, missing his girlfriend. The plot’s exploration of genuine sacrifice sometimes feels misplaced amid the flurry of innuendos and less-subtle gags.

Stripped of the romance, though, this movie will make you laugh. The timing is intentional and clever, and I missed a few lines because the theater was laughing too loudly. Stripped of the comedy, there is real quality in the romance being spun, and – if you let it – it has the ability to make you think.

Butted up against each other as they are, though, they don’t sit well, but sometimes – just sometimes – it’s enough anyway.

The metrics:

  • Would I see this opening weekend? No. This isn’t genre-leading quality or content, and I can wish for better
  • Would I see this in theaters? Maybe. It was an entertaining evening and probably worth the price of a ticket.
  • Would I watch it again on TV? I’m skeptical that it could be stripped down to be legal on television and still have a plot that made sense. Probably not.
  • Would I intentionally see something else opening weekend? No. It may not have ticked all the boxes, but it didn’t lose enough points to justify a no-vote, either.

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