Mainstream comedies tend to split down gender lines:
We have our chick-friendly rom-coms and we have our frat-friendly guy films.
Going the Distance attempts to merge the two genres. But since neither genre is particularly reality-based (they have their own rules, but not necessarily rules that exist anywhere else in the universe) the result is somewhat jarring. It reminded me of the time that Ally McBeal (a comedy) had a very special crossover episode with The Practice (a drama). Hey, who’s world are we in, anyway?
At least I get what Drew Barrymore and co. were driving at. One of the (many) reasons why I love Drew Barrymore is that she likes to choose roles that subvert gender stereotypes—and stereotypes in general. So her damsel was most definitely not in distress in Ever After; her heroines were very much of the riot grrrl variety in Whip It (the film that she directed), and she is the only female I’ve ever seen on film look at the snot content of her own tissue after blowing her nose (in Home Fries).
Likewise, I liked the fact that, in Going the Distance, Barrymore’s Erin likes to talk dirty and even gets into bar fights. When she meets Garrett (Barrymore’s real life on-again, off-again squeeze Justin Long) she sleeps with him that very night. She pretends to be offended by his roommate Dan (Charlie Day), who likes to DJ Garrett’s hookups.
“Is this how you live?” she demands.
When Garrett tries to apologize, explain, she snorts dismissively.
“Just kidding. I don’t really care. I just didn’t want you to think I was a slut.”
I found that moment amusing (and liberating). Too bad so little of Going the Distance was able to strike that perfect tone between guy and chick humor.
Instead, it often feels like two different films: One features Garrett’s buddies (his other best friend is played by Jason Sudeikis) and lots of raunchy sex jokes. The other one is a schmoopy romance about the hazards of a long distance relationship.
Both Barrymore and Long are charming enough to make a lot of this work—they even emerge unscathed from a rather embarrassing phone sex scene—but the script too often lets them down. They’re not real people. They have fake movie jobs (he’s a low level guy at a record company! she’s an intern for a newspaper striving to get that first big byline!) and fake movie friends and fake movie families (Barrymore’s sister, played by Christina Applegate, is a neatnik who freaks out when Erin and Garrett have sex on the dining room table.)
Going the Distance thinks it’s breaking the rules, but it really is just cleaving to two sets of rules. It’s safe to say that Going the Distance simply doesn’t go far enough.