Garrett (Justin Long) has arranged a romantic dinner for two with his girlfriend's birthday, but all does not go to plan when she is not exactly bowled over by having a takeaway in his apartment, especially when he makes the blunder of not getting her a present when she specifically asked him not to. This spells the end of the relationship, so he goes out with his two friends Dan (Charlie Day), his flatmate, and Box (Jason Sudeikis) for a drink to commiserate. While at the bar, he meets Erin (Drew Barrymore), and something clicks...
That could be the start of any number of mushy romantic comedies, but Going the Distance had a touch of the high concept about it which was more believable than many of its ilk, hinging around a simple idea of a long distance relationship and how it put a strain on even the rosiest of love affairs. Barrymore had become one of the genre's most enthusiastic proponents, so it was perhaps no surprise to see her in this environment by this time, which may have explained why this didn't do so well at the box office: the old been there, done that look to proceedings that made it all hackneyed in the audience's perception.
But actually, this was not a comedy aimed at the usual viewers of such things, as Geoff LaTulippe's script had more of the thirtysomething male in mind than the teen or twentysomething female; you could tell this from the references he made to pop culture of the eighties, and even in the casting of Barrymore for whom men of a certain age would recall as quite the pin-up in the nineties (no, really, she was - she did Playboy and everything) even if those days were behind her. Adding to that male nostalgia was Christina Applegate as Corinne, Erin's sister, doing wonders with a character whose main personality quirk was that she was a clean freak.
Another aspect to Going the Distance which appealed to the menfolk was the salty dialogue, made up of gags related to bodily functions and a "women - can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em" world-weariness about the central connection which is stretched to snapping point when Erin has to leave Garrett in New York for San Francisco to complete her college degree. She wants to write for newspapers, and there's the chance she can get a job in NY with the place she was serving as an intern with, as meanwhile Garrett slaves away for a record company position he has no real interest in aside from it being music-related. So in their way both of them are unhappy about where they are.
They just know they would be better off together, but with doubt being a large part of the movie's tone even that precious bond is open to question. Such is the uncertainty about the modern world and the knots it ties you in as you try to reach some kind of stability that Erin and Garrett fall victim to circumstance, and we are left wondering whether not so much they are right for one another - because they are - but if that can survive their troubles. Don't go thinking this was all very heartrending and serious-minded, however, because there were plenty of very funny moments and scenes, with an excellent rapport between the cast that rang a lot more true than the average contrivances of your basic 21st Century romcom, and generated plenty more laughter as well. Clear-eyed without being cynical, or not too cynical anyway, here was a movie worth taking a chance on if you had grown tired of the production line of its lovey-dovey fellows. Music by Mychael Danna.