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Movie Review: 'Going the Distance' worth watching once but not twice

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“Going the Distance”

Directed by: Nanette Burstein

Starring: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Ron Livingston, Jim Gaffigan, Kelli Garner, Rob Riggle, Christina Applegate

Rated
: R

Anyone who is old enough to understand the joys and heartbreak of affairs of the heart has heard about - maybe even experienced - what is known as the long distance romance.

Considering the popularity and sheer number of films in the romantic comedy genre, it's a wonder more films haven’t mined this classic situation where couples try to remain happy, loyal and satisfied while living thousands of miles apart. In days gone by, lovers separated by a continent had to rely mostly on letters or telegrams. Travel was slow and expensive, and long distance phone calls were pricey. Today, with cell phones, e-mail, Twitter, texting and web cams, staying in touch metaphorically is easy. But staying literally in touch still remains a problem and the one that can drive lovers to the deepest depths of despair.

“Going the Distance,” the first theatrical film from documentarian Nanette Burstein, examines the trials and tribulations of a couple trying to stay together while being 3,000 miles apart.

The film has its moments - due in great part to the likability of the female lead, Drew Barrymore - but falls flat at other times because of the script supplied by first-time screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe.

The opening scene is promising and will be a familiar one to many husbands and boyfriends. Garrett, played by Justin “That Guy From the Apple Commercials” Long, has a fight with his girlfriend. It's her birthday, and he didn't get her a present.

Why? Because she told him she didn't want any presents. She explains what every guy should know, when a woman says something like that, she wants a present. And it better be a good one.

Single again, Garrett goes to a bar with his boorish best buddies, Dan and Box, who give him some rather ludicrous tidbits of advice (peppered, as is the entire film, with R-rated language) about making the most out of being on the rebound.

When he meets Erin (Barrymore), sparks are evident and the two end up back at Garrett's apartment, sharing a bong and then a bed.

From there it's a whirlwind romance, complete with the requisite montage of romping around Central Park, Coney Island and all the other places that new lovers go in New York City.

But there's a fly in the ointment: Erin has been an intern for a New York City newspaper for the summer and is going back to San Francisco to finish school. She has but six weeks left in the city. They decide to carry on though and when the inevitable day comes he drives her to the airport, they hug goodbye in the car and off she goes.

A film like this can't exist without the airport scene and Garrett rushes in to find her. They agree to have a long distance love affair until Erin is out of college.

In act two we see the workings of such affairs in a high-tech world. There are cell calls, e-mails and texting. On the advice of one of his buddies there's even a clumsy attempt at phone sex.

Being apart is difficult but they make the most of it.

Garret flies to Frisco for Thanksgiving - there's a fairly explicit scene on a dining room table - and Erin flies to New York for Christmas. So there's some physical contact every now and then.

Then the shoe finally drops. Erin's been waiting tables and hates it, Garrett's an A&R man for a small record company and hates his job but loves the industry.

The big deal is: Erin's been offered a job at The San Francisco Chronicle. In a time when newspapers are laying people off by the hundreds, this is a dream come true. But the dark cloud settles in when Garrett realizes he doesn't want to leave New York. He knows a better job will come along. Erin has to take her dream job in Frisco. So that looks like that.

They decide to split up.

But as everyone who has seen a romantic comedy knows, miracles usually happen and things indeed fall into place here.

The chemistry between Long and Barrymore (who have been a couple offscreen as well) seems quite natural. Erin and Garrett act like real people rather than characters in a romantic comedy. The supporting characters -Christina Applegate as Erin's uptight sister, Garrett's pals and handful of stand up comics in cameos - all add zest to the goings-on but LaTulippe's screenplay is a hit and miss affair that could have used some help from a more experienced writer.

The other problem may be that a good part of the target audience - the older segment who are expecting nothing more explicit than the restaurant scene in “When Harry Met Sally”- are going to be upset by the use of vulgarity, the sex scenes and nudity. So be warned, the “R” rating is well deserved.

I didn't dislike “Going the Distance”– there are some honest laughs, and Barrymore is dazzling. But it's not a film I will ever watch again.[[In-content Ad]]

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