At The Movies 09.10.10
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” and here’s my commentary on a film opening this week at The Majestic Theater in Greenville :
            Yes, “Going The Distance” is both scatological and funny.  If you don’t like the raunchy humor, don’t go see it.  But it’s both a sensitive and hilarious treatment of a subject that has affected a lot of people:  long-distance relationships.
            We started telling our stories about long-distance relationships even before we went to this film.  Everybody who’s done this has vivid memoires of their experience.  And what are the chances of everything actually working out in the end?  Well, perhaps that depends on just how much of a romantic you really are.
            Justin Long plays Garrett, a 30-something guy who lives with a roommate, Dan (Charlie Day) in New York City, working for a small record label, but frustrated that he winds up promoting “kid pop” groups rather than the music he really enjoys.  His other best buddy, besides Dan, is Box (Jason Sudeikis), and they don’t mind at all discussing the details of each other’s dating lives.  It seems they’re sort of stuck in a post-adolescent serial-newbie phase.  Garrett’s latest failure involves the miscommunication about a birthday present:  she told him she didn’t need one, he takes her at her word, but wait, there was a hidden message there:  she was really telling him it wasn’t about the gift, but he was supposed to understand that he now should buy her something after he’d had permission not to, just to demonstrate his commitment to her…..ah, never mind.  It’s funnier as a comedy skit.  And they do that really well in this fresh take on post-modern relationships. 
            Garrett meets Erin (Drew Barrymore) while trying to cut in front of her at a video game at a bar.  They don’t begin well.  But they soon discover they have much in common (starting with liking the same video game).  They enjoy each other’s company that evening, and jump into bed happily.  But the next morning, as she’s quietly gathering her clothes and trying to tiptoe out the door (this is the new how-do-you-do?), they actually have a real conversation, go to breakfast, and confess to each other that they aren’t really ready to begin an actual relationship right now.  He’s just rebounding, she’s a newspaper intern who’s only in town for the summer, and then she returns to grad school at Stanford (she explains that her “life schedule” got delayed by chasing a previous relationship that didn’t work out).  So now, free to not have to worry about the “c” word (commitment), they have a fantastic time together---relaxed and easygoing and fun.  And when the summer is over, they find themselves doing exactly what they said they weren’t going to do:  wanting to talk about how they are going to maintain this unexpected long-distance relationship.
            They text each other (the texting appears on the screen, like a subtitle, which is an interesting way to deal with a very common form of communication).  They talk on the phone late at night (including one botched attempt at phone sex).  They “act out” with co-workers and friends their frustration over missing each other constantly.  Erin lives with her sister, Corinne (Christina Applegate, also a veteran of television comedy), and her husband and daughter, and they accidentally get an eyeful when Garrett arrives for a surprise visit (another clever use of embarrassment humor).  But several months pass, and here they are:  across the country from each other, and traveling is very expensive.  Erin receives a really good job offer at the San Francisco Chronicle, her dream job, really, in an industry that’s constantly re-trenching, and now she has to decide whether to accept it or just pack up and move back to New York City and wait tables again.  He’s looked for work on the West Coast, but can’t find any in his field, either.  So, what do they do?  Forget it?  One of them sacrifices a meaningful career so they can be together?  And if that happens, how long before the resentment sets in?  This is just really difficult.
            Justin Long and Drew Barrymore are very believable in the romancing part (rumors are that life imitates art).  Humor abounds, but it’s a serious situation:  one that will invoke plenty of memories, both good and bad, in a lot of viewers.
This is Ron Salfen, “At the Movies,” for 93.5 KICK-FM