Given the vicarious nature of our gossip-riddled culture, it’s not surprising that on-screen pairings often ignite off-screen romances – or vice-versa, which seems to be the case here. Uma Thurman met Ethan Hawke during “Gattaca” and Angelina Jolie lured Brad Pitt from Jennifer Aniston while making “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” yet by the time Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck made “Gigli,” their relationship had gone sour. So, while Hollywood sweetheart Drew Barrymore chose as her co-star genial Fairfield native Justin Long, best known as the “Mac Guy” in the Apple vs. PC commercials, concurrent with their intermittent off-screen involvement, their on-screen chemistry is non-existent.
While working as an intern on the New York Sentinel, 31 year-old Stanford journalism grad student Erin (Barrymore) hooks up with junior record-label exec Garrett (Long). When their summer fling turns into a full-fledged romance, they’re faced with a serious geographic problem: she’s in San Francisco, he’s in Manhattan. And airfare is so expensive that they cannot afford to fly cross-country with any regularity.
Novice screenwriter Geoff La Tulippe has come up with a relevant predicament, coupled with contemporary uncertainty, yet it deserves better treatment than descending into the kind of coarse vulgarity that characterizes a crude Judd Apatow comedy – like explicit phone sex, masturbation and having one lout conversing with friends while on the toilet with the door open. Filthy language spews out of Erin’s smartass mouth and the supporting characters are contrived caricatures, particularly Garrett’s boorish buddies, Dan (Charlie Day) and Box (Jason Sudeikis), and Erin’s disapproving, over-protective sister Corinne (Christina Applegate).
First-time feature-film director Nanette Burstein’s clumsy, forced pacing amplifies the long-distance dilemma by making minutes seem like hours. She also breaks believability by having Erin eschew a car seatbelt and placing a pivotal Erin/Garrett encounter in an airport departure lounge when only one of them is boarding a plane. Because of TSA rules, this has become totally implausible.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Going the Distance” falls short with a self-conscious, foul-mouthed 5. As a romantic comedy, it’s a disappointment.