Going the Distance

(2010) ** R
103 min. Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution. Director: Nanette Burstein. Cast: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate.

/content/films/3841/1.jpgExtra! Extra! Hip People with Cool Jobs Have Relationship Problems! Or so we “learn” in Going the Distance, the debut fiction feature from documentarian Nanette Burstein (American Teen).
Sarcasm aside, the raison d’être of Going the Distance is exploring long-distance relationships. What a shame, then, that it has nothing much to say on the subject that isn’t completely obvious.

Still, the ever-charming Drew Barrymore puts a winning face on this romantic comedy as Erin, a 31-year-old intern nearing the end of her run at the New York Sentinel. The high-scorer on a watering hole’s Centipede arcade game, Erin meets cute with fellow Centipede buff Garrett (Justin Long) and the two drink some beers, share a bong, and hook up. Since Erin is scheduled to return to the Left Coast to finish her grad-school studies at Stanford, the pair agree to keep it light, but when the time comes to split, neither one wants to give up what they have going, romantically speaking. Problem: they don’t want to give up what they have going professionally, either. Erin’s not going to abandon her studies, and Garrett’s unwilling to give up New York City and his job at a record label (after all, Erin hopes to make things permanent at the Sentinel). Well, the course of true love never did run smooth.

But the devil’s in the details. First-time screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe busies himself with the romantic comedy genre’s requisite trumped-up plot complications, head-scratching character choices designed to drive a wedge between the lovers for plot purposes. It’s as hard to believe one lover’s inexplicably jerky selfishness as it is to believe the other’s inexplicable hiding of an important career development. What two people serious enough about each other to go for a long-distance relationship behave this way?

This is why romantic comedies have to be so good at sleight-of-hand and misdirection. Burstein’s distractions include Garrett’s comically insensitive buddies—played by Jason Sudeikis (SNL) and the hilarious Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)—Christina Applegate (Christina Who?) and comedian Jim Gaffigan as Erin’s sister and brother-in-law, and cameos from Ron Livingston, Rob Riggle and Kristen Schaal.

Appreciative of the idea of bonding over shared pop-culture references, the target audience of thirtysomethings will probably be more forgiving of the film’s weaknesses. And Barrymore is so darn likeable, turning a drunk scene that someone with her tabloid past might have thought twice about into one of the movie’s comic highlights. Going the Distance isn’t terribly unpleasant, but it is awfully conventional. Unlike its characters, the movie never takes flight.

[This review first appeared in Palo Alto Weekly.]

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Aspect ratios: 2.4:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 11/30/2010

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Warner treats Going the Distance like most of its New Line romantic comedies, with a solid but unexciting Blu-ray release. The Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack boasts an inconsistent hi-def transfer that generally looks filmicly "good as new" but occasionally lapses into softness or an unnaturally glossy look. It's a darn sight better than standard definition, though, and this isn't the sort of movie built to be hi-def reference material. The same feeling pervades for the disc's audio, a sturdy but hardly robust DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that fits the needs of the lo-key feature: clear dialogue, light ambience, and occasional bursts of club-thumping music.

Mostly cutesy bonus features don't do much to up the thrill level of this release, though it's nice that WB includes a commentary by director Nanette Burstein. Since Going the Distance is her first narrative feature in the studio world, Burstein proves an enthusiastic subject, no doubt primed to make her case from her press-tour duties.

In "How to Have a Perfect Date" (7:51, HD), Drew Barrymore, Christina Applegate, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, and Justin Long share dating tips.

"A Guide to Long Distance Dating" (7:57, HD) gives a superficial overview of the film's concept, with interview clips of producer Adam Shankman, Day, Sudeikis, Barrymore, Long, producer Jennifer Gibgot, screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe, Burstein, Kelli Garner, and Applegate.

"The Cast of Going the Distance: Off the Cuff" (4:19, HD) finds Shankman and Burstein introducing amusing outtakes from the film.

Seven worthwhile "Deleted Scenes" (12:48, HD) also include an alternate take or two, and the disc also includes a Music section: "'If You Run' Music Video by the Boxer Rebellion" (3:25, HD) and the band discussing its experience on the film in "Going the Distance Soundtrack - Behind the Scenes" (2:27, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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