If Judd Apatow films such as Knocked Up can be credited for introducing romantic-comedy elements into the gross-out comedy genre, then Going the Distance seems to be doing the opposite by delivering strong elements of gross-out humour into a romantic-comedy formula. It may also be the first romantic-comedy to really explore the dynamics of a long-distance relationship in an age where phone and computer technology now allows for such relationships to be better maintained than ever before, but still can’t replace the real thing. And in Going the Distance the real thing is both emotional intimacy and wild sex; satisfying both the fans of romantic and gross-out comedies.
The couple forced to live apart in Going the Distance is Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Garrett (Justin Long). Part of what makes Going the Distance so enjoyable is the chemistry between the pair that makes them a genuinely romantic and sexy on-screen couple. Erin is initially portrayed in a similar way to Mary in There’s Something About Mary in that she’s very much the average guy’s ultimate woman who is not only attractive, fun and into sex but enjoys ‘guy things’ such as arcade games, beer and bongs. Garrett is also initially a little bit too much the ‘conventional guy’ type in that prior to meeting Erin he has commitment issues and can’t read women’s signals. Fortunately, when the sparks do begin to fly between the pair, these broad character traits fade away and they start to resemble a believable couple that you really want the best for.
The main problem with Going the Distance is that it peaks early with the courtship between Erin and Garrett, prior to their geographic separation, being the highlight of the film. For the first third of the film it is full of laugh-out-loud humour courtesy of the couple, Garrett’s roommate Dan (Charlie Day) and workmate Box (Jason Sudeikis) providing lots of wickedly funny Aptowesque humour. The scenes with Erin’s family and friends are less successful although Christina Applegate does well as her uptight sister in a role that is very similar to the one Leslie Mann had in Knocked Up. Nevertheless, despite this loss of momentum Going the Distance maintains its charm and smutty humour right through to its pleasingly imperfect resolution.
Going the Distance has attempted a very precarious middle ground in trying to appeal to two difference comedy demographics but overall it works and that’s got a lot to do with how well Long and Barrymore perform. They are both so clearly not prudish in the slightest and that energy is transferred on screen so that you get a sense that the wicked humour shared by the characters reflects that of the performers. It is also refreshing to see a film like this where both the male and female characters have equal status, ambitions and sexual appetites making Going the Distance a truly modern romantic-gross-out-comedy.