Very rarely does a romantic comedy come along that I really enjoy. Most of them just come across formulaic, repetitive and lacking anything to tell them apart from all of the other romantic comedies. Ultimately, they have nothing that stands out or individualizes them from the crowd. Thankfully "Going the Distance" is a romantic comedy that most definitely stands out amongst the crowd.
It should be noted that going into the romantic comedy directed by Nanette Burstein and penned by Geoff LaTulippe I had very low expectations. As previously covered, I'm not a fan of the genre. Regardless of my opinion on any genre, I try to see everything that releases and this viewing in particular would in theory also please my wife and her opposite opinion of the romantic comedy genre.
The first signal that "Going the Distance" is outside the norm in the romantic comedy department is its R rating. A rating it deserves not because it is crude, but because of the content and how it is handled. The film actually contains zero nudity outside of Justin Long getting a spray tan, but it does have a healthy amount of foul language. The dialogue however is absolutely natural to the subjects it focuses on. A tip of the hat to writer Geoff LaTulippe for penning dialogue that not only feels natural, but is engaging and endlessly laugh inducing. The conversations that persist throughout the 102 minute comedy all feels like conversations you'd have whether they be with friends or the person you are in a relationship with.
One of my biggest gripes with romantic comedies is that they all follow the same typical patterns. Certainly this argument can be made about any genre of film, but rom-com's have become so predictable that each new movie releasing you just expect to see the exact same situations with new faces and maybe a few new locations. They have become hyper predictable. Now "Going the Distance" isn't breaking the mold, but it does offer enough original material, set ups and situations to keep a genuine amount of intrigue and mystery to the story. In other words, so many times romantic comedies are done in the paint by the numbers mentality that you can predict each plot device or character development before they even happen, luckily in 'Distance' much of that mentality is avoided.
The hardest selling point of a romantic comedy is the couple. First off they've got to be likable. For me that generally isn't so easy. Can't just put two attractive actors together and boom, you've got a hit! Quite the opposite, most of those have never worked. I'm also not a big fan of the over-done geeky or overweight guy with unapproachable female. Sure its a nice fantasy, but it has never worked out. What does seem to work is to put to generally generic characters together. Why, because they feel real. Justin Long and Drew Barrymore come across as exactly that. This might have something to do with the fact the two are dating in real life, but I'm not paying to see them in real life. I'm paying for them on screen and while on screen, the duo does a convincing job. The oddity is that I'm not a real big fan of either actor in real life. Barrymore I've grown up with and while I admit she is a talented actress, very rarely do I enjoy her performances. Justin Long is just another actor in a long line of typecast who generally turns me off very quickly. Here he does however deliver a toned down performance that dare I say it again, feels natural on screen.
The supporting cast within "Going the Distance" is pretty fantastic. Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis are a riot as Justin Long's friends in New York. Day and Sudeikis have continual side splitting banter throughout the rom-com. So much so every time the two are on screen you can expect to find yourself laughing. Christina Applegate and Jim Gaffigan also deserve so notoriety for their performances as Drew Barrymore's sister and brother-in-law. Applegate carries a lot of her scenes and hammers home a couple running jokes that could have been otherwise forgettable.
At the end of the day "Going the Distance" is what I wanted from a romantic comedy. It is natural. It has heart and doesn't comes across as sappy. It avoids a majority of the typical tropes so many rom-com's wade in yet has just enough formula to keep things simple and neat. It is hysterical. Both the cast and the penned dialogue provide numerous substantial laughs that can be enjoyed repeatedly.