By John P. McCarthy
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Drew Barrymore and Justin Long are girlfriend and boyfriend living on opposite sides of the country in "Going the Distance" (Warner Bros.), a surprisingly raunchy romantic comedy, even allowing for its suggestive title.
Whatever wholesome charms Barrymore and Long possess are obscured by the dirty-minded nature of the dialogue. As for the characters they portray, their separation anxiety pales in comparison to the audience’s distress at hearing them continuously spout vulgarities and obsess about sex. "Going The Distance" implies that pining from afar can be tougher on the people around two lovebirds than it is on the sweethearts themselves.
Barrymore, she of the dynastic acting clan, and Long, best known as the "Mac Guy" from the Apple computer ad campaign, have had an on-again, off-again relationship in real life that may account for their easy rapport on screen. Unfortunately, the soul mates they portray lack personality, and director Nanette Burstein and screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe resort to sophomoric bawdiness to enliven the proceedings.
Erin and Garrett meet in a Manhattan watering hole on the very night when Garrett’s girlfriend has broken up with him, citing his insensitivity and commitment phobia. He just hasn’t met the right girl yet. Enter Erin, a Stanford graduate student in New York for a summer internship at a daily newspaper. They sleep together, but in the morning realize something more meaningful than a one-night stand is possible. After a six-week idyll, she must head back out West and they agree to attempt a bicoastal relationship.
Over the better part of a year, when they aren’t texting or saying goodbye in the airport after brief visits, Garrett banters with pals Box (Jason Sudeikis) and Dan (Charlie Day), while Erin fields advice from her protective older sister Corinne (Christina Applegate). Erin has been burned before after dropping everything for a guy. Garrett, who works as a talent scout for a record company, tries to find a job in San Francisco without success. Unless something gives, they’re doomed.
In addition to whining about being apart, Erin and Garrett lament the beleaguered state of the newspaper and music industries — a plaint that will resonate most with so-called media elites.
Lacking authenticity, the graphic language and unsavory situations overlaying the plot, by contrast, will ring false to a cross-section of viewers. For two educated, presumably intelligent people, Erin and Garrett have limited vocabularies and imaginations. Ditto their cohorts. The copious amount of alcohol everybody consumes may be a contributing factor.
One positive element of "Going the Distance" is that it implicitly endorses committed, monogamous relationships. Still, there’s no indication Erin and Garrett will marry in the end.
The film contains two somewhat explicit if fleeting premarital encounters, rear male nudity, persistent alcohol and an instance of marijuana use, much profanity, frequent graphic sexual banter and pervasive rough, crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.