Going the Distance boasts a new trick, swerving the Cinderella corniness of its rom-com predecessors by introducing a welcome shot of grit.
Where now for the romantic-comedy? After months of the pointless (Killers), patronising (Sex and the City 2) and painful (Letters to Juliet), it seems only the French can balance escapism with passion, as displayed in Pascal Chaumeil’s sublimely cheeky Heartbreaker. But Hollywood hasn’t given up. Going the Distance boasts a new trick, swerving the Cinderella corniness of its predecessors by introducing a welcome shot of grit.
Drew Barrymore plays Erin, an ambitious intern at a New York newspaper. So far, so Kate Hudson. But Erin is about to flee the city in search of full-time work out west. Just weeks before this move to California, however, she falls for record plugger Garrett (Justin Long). Both know that with 3000 miles between them – and no cash – this relationship won’t be easy, but breaking-up seems premature. As Erin works the West Coast waiting tables, and Garrett struggles with love across the time zones, the realities of a turgid economy seem intent on flattening their dreams.
Going the Distance sees romance as make-do-and-mend rather than Mr Big shelling out for a walk-in wardrobe. Erin and Garrett’s story plays out in grimy bars and sweaty gigs; every look, every kiss, every brush of greasy hair feels authentic. Maybe it’s because Long and Barrymore actually dated, maybe because the actress’ own colourful history informs her every performance. Mainly, though, it’s in the dialogue, a script that revels in boozy, sweary and frank discussions of life’s curveballs that only toil-worn thirty-somethings could have.
Clichés drift in. Garrett’s mates are predictably dopey – a panto chorus for the suits in Burbank worried about things getting too insightful – while the film’s refreshing earthiness occasionally crosses the line into plain American Pie-style gross-out. But a sweetly judged finale, played out, like much of the film, to the visceral strains of The Boxer Rebellion, shows that hard-fought romance is all the more rewarding. The path to true love is lined with gravel.
Another rom-com? Blame Carrie Bradshaw.
Gives the love story a much-needed punch in the guts.
Doesn’t go the whole distance. But it’s a start.