"Going the Distance" is the latest romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, a couple who incidentally is also dating in real life. Written by Geoff LaTulippe and directed by Nanette Burstein, who previously directed mostly documentaries (notably the excellent "American Teen"), the film exudes honesty and realism, while providing plenty of laughs.
Barrymore plays Erin, a journalism graduate student in her 30s who is on a six-week summer internship at a New York newspaper. At a bar after a tough day at work, she meets Garrett, played by Long, a typical guy who has just been dumped by his girlfriend a couple of hours earlier for being clueless about the female psyche. Garrett is charmed by Erin's laid-back, no-fuss character, and the two have a hilarious one-night stand back at Garrett's grimy apartment. At breakfast the next morning, both reveal that they are career-challenged (Erin is an aspiring reporter in the declining newspaper sector, while Garrett is a music producer in the dying record industry), love-challenged (Garrett having recently been dumped, and Erin having put her life on hold for her ex-boyfriend only to be burnt and having to resume her career in her thirties), and not looking for a long-term commitment. Despite this inauspicious start, Erin and Garrett find themselves increasingly drawn towards each other during their six weeks fling, and when it came time to part, they have a polite awkward dinner, a silent ride to the airport the day after, followed by the bursting of the emotional dam at the airport as they both profess their love for each other at the last possible moment. So follows a funny but honest look at a long-distance relationship, complete with the requisite humiliating groveling search for jobs in each other's cities.
Garrett's two male buddies, Dan and Box, provide comic foil to the anguish of the separated lovers. Dan, played by Charlie Day, is the compulsively helpful and totally sincere roommate from hell, who listens in on the couple's bedroom activities and provides appropriate soundtrack at key junctures. Christina Applegate also puts on a fine performance as Erin's sister Corrine, whose refined sense of hygiene is continually challenged as she frantically mops up after the couple's intimacy sessions in the kitchen. The comedic talent of the strong supporting cast stops the movie from being too depressing in its realism, and the chemistry between Erin and Garrett shines through despite the slightly hackneyed plot, perhaps due to the real-life romance between Barrymore and Long. Although this film is not going to win any Oscars, if you're looking to while away a couple of hours on one of the funniest and most honest romantic comedies in a long time, "Going the Distance" might just be the ticket.