The Muppets Take Manhattan said it best. "Peoples is peoples." Truer words were never spoken, and this is the same level of lesson Going the Distance seeks and discovers throughout its generally hilarious running time. If Justin Long or Drew Barrymore were to re-create the speech it would go something like "relationships are relationships." And they are. You can't argue that. Relationships aren't buildings.
Relationships are also hard. They're hard no matter the circumstances, but long distance ones are exponentially harder than the cuddly close distance sorts. This is the story of Justin Long and Drew Barrymore, let's just call it the anti-500 Days of Summer because they are clearly two crazy kids who are meant for each other. But a problem looms: Barrymore's New York City newspaper internship is up at the end of summer, and she's headed back to San Francisco. The fledgling couple decides to take things light, putting the potential separation anxiety aside to concentrate on fun.
Which leads us to the best friends, generally the best part of any romantic comedy. Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis fill the bill for J-Long, and they deliver in a big way. We all dream of having friends like Charlie, guys who bring a sentimental style of quirk to every occasion, and Sudeikis' rapid fire snide comments are a welcome relief against that supportive backdrop. Pencil in Christina Applegate as Barrymore's sister and you've got a nice supporting cast. Going the Distance also gives Mike Birbiglia a scene and Jim Gaffigan does nice work for a few solid minutes. It's pleasant (and rare) to see a casting director with such a keen eye for current comic talent. Kudos.
The only thing keeping Going the Distance from the pantheon of comedy is the central conflict the film presents a little over two-thirds of the way through. As soon as the plot point presents itself you immediately think "Well, this isn't a real problem" but everyone on-screen continues along as if it in fact were a real problem without an easy solution. It's strange, but it looks as though the creative team involved felt that an actual "real" problem might weigh the film down, sapping some of the comedy. But why go down that route at all? Why must every romantic comedy present an "oh no, they aren't getting along!" moment? Let's rise above it! We can be heroes!
Still, I did laugh throughout, and Justin Long and Drew Barrymore bring a real freshness and chemistry to the relationship comedy. The long distance aspect was interesting, accurate, and mined for maximum comic effect. A nice date night, a fun film with friends, Going the Distance starts our September off with a modicum of momentum.