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Going the Distance

Going Nowhere

Rating: .5 out of 5 stars.

In the best of circumstances, relationships can be a real struggle. Throw in the additional stressor of being separated by thousands of miles and what was formerly challenging becomes a crucible. This long-distance scenario is the thrust of the romantic comedy Going the Distance.

Former real-life couple Justin Long and Drew Barrymore play the geographically challenged lovers with Justin’s Garrett marooned on the East Coast and Drew’s Erin on the West Coast. While the premise has lots of potential, Going the Distance by and large fails to provide anything beyond this.

Aside from a shared affinity for the Centipede arcade game and a mutual gift for bar trivia, it’s not terribly clear what it is that really draws these two together. The romance feels trite and manufactured, which is a bit surprising given that presumably these two were actually romantically entangled in real life.

Garrett comes across as self consumed and narcissistic, particularly in the latter stages of the film when he seemingly doesn’t understand why Erin wouldn’t throw away a great job in San Francisco to come live with him in New York. This is despite the fact they only really dated for six weeks while she was interning in New York City.

Erin is no real catch herself. Barrymore has made a career for herself in cutesy romantic comedies like this one in the past, and at times has pulled it off (Never Been Kissed). But, in Going The Distance, her awkward/cutesy routine feels threadbare. Erin rarely comes across as cute, but does manage to annoy frequently. It’s hard to understand why anyone would be interested in dating Erin even if she was geographically convenient.

This film’s inability to go the distance should not be blamed solely on the primary cast as the painfully saccharine and contrived plotline is not the fault of Long or Barrymore. The blame likely goes to neophyte screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe. The biggest problem (I won’t belabor the smaller ones) is the complete transparency of the story. Going the Distance presents no twists or surprises. Erin and Garrett are smitten. The two lovebirds struggle in entirely predictable ways. You know the rest.

It’s not entirely fair to place full blame on LaTulippe as undoubtedly his original script ran the gauntlet of development hell and first-time feature director Nanette Burstein put her stamp on Going the Distance, as well. Burstein cut her chops on documentaries (On The Ropes) and would appear to be out of her element with this genre.

But at least Going the Distance is easy to listen to. The soundtrack is stellar including tracks by the Pretenders, the Cure, the Replacements, and the Boxer Rebellion. Close your eyes and you might be able to imagine a good film to match the music.

As recently as a couple weeks ago I would have put The Expendables at the top of the list for worst films of the year, but Going the Distance presents as many (if not more) problems as the aforementioned action orgy and remarkably fewer moments of genuine entertainment. This one goes nowhere.