In the cesspool of modern romantic comedy, littered as it is with grim, misogynistic vehicles for the deeply unappealing likes of Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Katherine Heigl, a flawed but ultimately adequate film like Going the Distance feels like a masterpiece. A so-called chick flick that doesn’t hate women and won’t make you want to gouge your eyeballs out? Stop the presses!
Borrowing more from Judd Apatow’s sentimental gross-outs than 27 Dresses, the film stars an irresistible Drew Barrymore as the oldest intern in the history of newspapers, desperately trying to restart her career after wasting too many years with all the wrong guys. “My timeline is off,” she explains more than once, which might be the filmmakers’ attempt to justify this 35-year-old actress still living like a college student, with a fondness for bong rips, blackout benders and one-night stands.
They need not have bothered, as Barrymore is simply adorable here. The more she cusses, drinks and stuffs her face with buffalo wings, the more appealing she becomes. Freed from the prissy confines of most romantic-comedy lead roles, she’s a potty-mouthed,hard-partying girl who isn’t afraid to admit that she enjoys sex. It’s impossible to imagine uptight Us Weekly drones like Aniston or Heigl indulging in the kind of giddy, stoned lasciviousness that Barrymore gets away with here. She carries the movie on lusty giggles and F-bombs.
The catch is, a mere six weeks before heading back to Stanford to finally finish that whole education thing, Barrymore falls for Justin Long’s slacker layabout. I’ve never been a big fan of the ubiquitous Mac pitchman; he’s got a clean, audience-friendly veneer that always makes him seem like he’s selling toothpaste. To its credit, Going the Distance tries to rough up Long’s overly-rehearsed polish, casting him as a casually caddish record company up-and-comer with raunchy roommates and a lazy streak a mile long.
But in the end it’s Barrymore’s movie. Making dumb decisions and blundering her way into hard-won happiness, it’s frankly impossible not to root for this gal. She handles the movie’s filthiest material with grace, selling even a smutty oral sex monologue with effervescent delight. After belatedly catching up with Barrymore’s rousing, poignant directorial debut Whip It, I’m starting to think she can do anything.
Movies express desires, so it’s no shock their makers often build movies around their lovers, spouses or objects of infatuation.