Going the Distance
When I first read about this film in the making, I was psyched. I’m a huge Drew Barrymore fan, and it appeared that finally, a romantic comedy was in the works that presented a more modern interpretation of male female relationships. It looked like it might actually include both sides of the story rather than just a fairy tale version of the woman’s desire to be desired.
Mission accomplished… sort of. A reflection of a modern day romance challenged by location, work, and common fears of intimacy, Going the Distance takes a small step on the road to diversifying the romantic comedy genre. But it’s a slippery slope, especially in the Hollywood Hills. I’m certain that many viewers will see themselves and their relationships reflected on screen; I know I did. However, both the plot and dialogue reinforce a dominant misconception of feminist thought—in order for women to heard, and in this case dateable, they have to join the boys club.
Going the Distance chronicles the courtship of Erin (Barrymore) and Garrett (Justin Long) as they meet, fall for each other, and struggle to maintain their relationship between NYC and San Francisco. Erin and Garret are introduced at a bar when he discovers she is ERL, the Centipede videogame high-scorer he has been working to beat. Flabbergasted that ERL is a girl, the rest of their evening follows suit as the beautiful Erin chugs beer, devours chicken wings, and trades crass jokes with the dudes. Apparently this behavior is just what it takes to get the commitment-phobic Garrett to fall in love. The reality of Long and Barrymore’s off-camera relationship is impossible to separate from that of the characters they play in the film, but it works. While many moments are contrived, the chemistry between the two is infectious, especially in the beginning when the cinematography fools you into thinking you’re watching a documentary.
Taking a cue from Knocked Up, Going the Distance offers the bulk of its humor via the supporting cast of men and fails in providing another interesting female character. Garrett’s overly-involved buddies Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis steal every scene they are in, whether by dj’ing the couple’s hook-up or convincing Garrett to grow a moustache in order to pick up older ladies. Erin’s support comes in the form of a cynical, disapproving sister, the always enjoyable Christina Applegate. Just like Leslie Mann in Knocked Up, Applegate’s character is dull and stereotypical forcing the usually hilarious actress to idle through meager screen time and meaningless dialogue.
Barrymore is one of the few ladies in Hollywood with some real power in her pocket and, flawed as it may be, does her part to shift the traditional perception of women in film in favor of a more realistic, multi-dimensional character. When a co-worker asks where she is going, Erin, a grad-student and aspiring reporter, who have just been through the wringer with her editor, retorts, “I’m thirty-one and I’m an intern. I’m getting wasted.” As a thirty-one-year-old aspiring writer who has recently applied for a few internships herself, I immediately resonated with this character. As the film develops we watch Erin struggle with building a career in a dying industry, falling in love and eventually, having to choose between the two.