Erin (Drew Barrymore), an aspiring journalist, and Garrett (Justin Long), a music-industry scout, have both chemistry and physics. What they don't have much of is history or geography. Within weeks after they meet in a scruffy Manhattan tavern, Erin must return to San Francisco for graduate school.
Barrymore is impish and Long droll in the affable comedy Going the Distance, about lovers divided by 3,000 miles and almost as many other obstacles. While the leads (once real-life partners) are a delight, Nanette Burstein's movie about a couple trying to synchronize careers, love, and geography is a little less so.
The film gets many things so right about the conflicts faced by a two-career couple looking for work in a shrinking economy. (In this case, a couple whose careers are in fields plagued by layoffs.)
Likewise the R-rated screenplay has the casual raunch and relationship slapstick of a dating world where the line between hookup and coupledom is fuzzy.
But there's a "haven't-we-met-before?" quality to the secondary characters that diminishes Going's wry, observational humor of the principals.
The film's fresh perspectives come in the familiar, and shelf-worn, wrapping of a Judd Apatow comedy. Garrett has best friends (Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis) who are the comic Greek chorus to the happenings in his life. And Erin has a high-strung sister (nicely played by Christina Applegate as a woman phobic of bodily fluids) who disapproves of Garrett.
More interesting than these forces threatening to come between the lovebirds are the forces that really do come between them: distance, insecurity, jealousy, and the fear that if one gives up a job to come live with the other, the relationship may not survive.
Sadly, Erin and Garrett live in a world where jobs are safer bets than partners. Both are inclined to go where the job is rather than where the heart is, a point sometimes lost in the shuffle of the comic Greek chorus.
Working from a script by Geoff LaTulippe, Burstein (American Teen) is sharp at showing how the technological devices designed to bring people together (cell phones, the Internet, iChat) end up distancing them.
The movie avoids most of the romantic comedy cliches, and its leads are appealing. That's almost enough for me. But not quite.