Real-life relationships between co-starring movie actors can go one of two ways. In 2005’s “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” Brangelina set the screen on fire, and the sexual tension between the co-stars is so visible that their characters’ clothes-ripping, gun-shooting, knife-flinging sex scene is a welcome release for hot and bothered viewers. By contrast, Justin Long and Drew Barrymore (Drustin?) are uninspired and boring as on-screen lovers, and “Going the Distance” would probably be better if their characters spent less time unclothed and on top of each other in gratuitous sex scenes.
Long stars as Garrett, a soft New York City music executive who hates his job and never truly connects with his many girlfriends. Barrymore is Erin, a 31-year-old journalism intern in New York who once gave up her personal life in pursuit of love and now shies away from men. In typical romantic comedy fashion, the two meet one night at a bar—the same night Garrett gets dumped, of course—and make their way back to his place, where bongs, booze, and the “Top Gun” soundtrack somehow turn into the kind of sex that begins a six-week, whirlwind romance. When the time comes for Erin to return to her real home in San Francisco, the two are too attached to fully let go, and they decide to start down the difficult road of a long-distance relationship.
The movie’s premise is no more contrived than the plot of any rom-com, but the lack of chemistry between the two leads makes “Going the Distance” feel especially forced because they spend so much time apart. But maybe that’s the point; a relationship’s chemistry is harder to see and feel when the people involved are on opposite ends of the country. That being said, as viewers, it’s not enough to be told that the main characters are in love. There needs to be more justification than cheesy on-screen texts and sneezing panda YouTube videos to explain why the couple’s every meeting begins with airport-novel-worthy sex that only gets more tiresome as the movie drags on.
Luckily for Barrymore and Long, there’s a fantastic supporting cast to distract from their uninspired romance as Garrett and Erin. Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis are hilarious as Garret’s best friends Dan and Box, respectively. It’s not just that they have better lines—“You cut your own hair and suck your own dick? You’re like a Swiss army knife!” says Box to Dan—but rather that they bring energy to the film that Long sorely lacks unless he is on screen with them. Similarly, the underutilized Christina Applegate is a fantastic blend of neuroticism and overprotectiveness as Erin’s older sister Corinne. Her straight face when discussing the dangers of dry-humping with Barrymore is priceless, as is her resigned disgust toward cleaning up the messes of her sister’s frequent sexcapades.
The sex scenes in “Going the Distance” are hands-down the worst part of the movie, worse than Barrymore’s whiny and implausible portrayal of an irresponsible woman burned by love, and worse than the generic indie-pop music soundtrack that tries to direct viewers’ every emotion. The most repulsive moment comes when the family is eating dinner on the table that was a previous scene of one of Drustin’s sexual encounters. One of the dinner guests drops corn on the table, and as it rolls around it picks up leftover body fluids before it is eaten. The scenario is disgusting, unnecessary, and completely out of place.
The reason, perhaps, that the director has to resort to scenes like this to encourage laughter is that there is minimal entertainment in watching Barrymore and Long act out a surprisingly unconvincing relationship. Moments of true brilliance, like Long’s spray-tan incident and Barrymore’s drunken bar outburst, are forgotten in a mix of distasteful phone sex, awkward dry-humping, and crass puns regarding restaurant tips and penis tips. If Drustin had even one-half of the sexual tension and chemistry in “Going the Distance” as Brangelina did in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” the movie could have been brilliant. Without that chemistry, the film stands as yet another flop in Drew Barrymore’s extensive resume of mediocre romantic comedies.
—Staff writer Araba Appiagyei-Dankah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.