Goes where most rom-coms don't - down to earth ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Goes where most rom-coms don't - down to earth

Going the Distance
My rating:

The modern Hollywood rom-com (romantic comedy, for those who ain't down with the lingo) is all about the complication. A boy and a girl meet and fall in love, but there's always something that keeps their relationship from smooth sailing all the way. This is of course based on the principle that conflict creates drama; people who are happy and content and always get what they want make for a boring story. The problem with the typical modern Hollywood rom-com is that the complication is often so contrived and artificial - see How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days for one of the most moronically convoluted examples - that it makes the whole movie feel fake. Indeed, "contrived" is a word I use a lot in my rom-com reviews.

So when one comes along that makes a sincere attempt to be honest and real, I have to praise it like I should.

Garrett (Justin Long) meets Erin (Drew Barrymore) and have a whirlwind romance, but with the understanding that she is due to move back to San Francisco in six weeks' time while he remains in New York. But as she is about to leave, they decide to take the plunge and commit to a long-distance relationship. As they endure the loneliness and frustration of being apart, Erin is comforted by her older sister Corinne (Christina Applegate) and Garrett hangs out with his friends Box (Jason Sudeikis) and Dan (Charlie Day). But their respective careers and ambitions - Garrett is a music label executive, and Erin is trying to get a job in the dying newspaper business - further complicate their hopes of eventually being together in the same time zone.

It's not unqualified praise though. Going the Distance suffers from one of the hoariest old rom-com cliches: the quirky comic-relief friends/family members. And boy do they lay the quirkiness on thick. Box and Dan are various degrees of obnoxious and stupid, Corinne is a neurotic neat freak, her husband Phil (Jim Gaffigan) is henpecked, and even her daughter Maya appears to have ADHD; it's like Garrett and Erin are the only two normal and well-adjusted people in this world. And it's really quite glaring how almost every time we have a funny scene, the plot stops dead in its tracks. First-time screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe barely even tries to integrate the laughs with the central storyline, which is what a well-written comedy should do.

But I laughed anyhow. Yes, as contrived as it all was, it still managed to draw some decent guffaws from me. Hey, I'm not made of stone, if a comedy manages to charm me I'll laugh at its jokes. And there's some weapons-grade charm in this movie, chiefly provided by Justin Long and Drew Barrymore. Not only are they two effortlessly likable actors with proven rom-com cred, they play two characters who are mature and understanding and always do the sensible thing. When Garrett feels threatened by Erin's hunky British co-worker, all it takes is one conversation to resolve his jealousy (and that subplot). And later when it seems Garrett might fall for the temptations of his cute co-worker, both of them astutely avoid turning it into a "wacky" misunderstanding.

Man, this is rare. I can totally forgive LaTulippe for the other thing, because he understands that the real difficulties of a long-distance relationship are complications enough, without the couple doing stupid things to create drama for themselves. The film grounds itself in the real-life issues of young people balancing love and career, and how one so often conflicts with the other. The high cost of plane tickets means Garrett and Erin can only fly out to see each other every few months. They sometimes miss each other on the phone, because of the time difference. And they both have passions and ambitions outside of their relationship, all of which makes them so much more real and relatable. Which, yes, is rare among Hollywood rom-coms, and it only makes you wonder why.

A curious thing about the movie is its R-rating - curious because it really didn't need to be. I suppose its producers and director Nanette Burstein deserve kudos for insisting on this, whereas a PG-13 might've earned them more box-office. There's a sex scene - played for laughs - that presumably showed some nudity (censored of course, but still pretty funny), a scene where Garrett and Erin share a bong (cute, but largely unnecessary), and lots of profanity-filled dialogue throughout. Perhaps it was Burstein's background as a documentary filmmaker - this is her first feature film - that led to such a down-to-earth approach to the dialogue; because horny bachelors like Garrett and his buddies would naturally talk like that, as would perpetually stressed-out married couples like Corinne and Phil.

Which brings me to a truly unique pleasure that Going the Distance offers: its BM subtitles. The subtitles are awesome! I really wish I could credit the subtitler by name like I did once before, because he or she very diligently translated almost all of the dialogue, no matter how crude. Did you know that "dry-humping" in Malay is "ringan-ringan"? I didn't, but I do now! And the next time I have cause to insult someone in BM, I'm totally gonna use "makanlah semangkuk anu" ("eat a bowl of dick"). Dear Mr. or Ms. Unknown Subtitler, I bet you had loads of fun working on this; thank you for that, because I sure did too!

So yeah, hilarious BM subtitles (hilariously accurate, for once); if that draws a few more butts into seats for this movie, I will have done my job. It may not be the best rom-com about long-distance relationships that could be made, but it's definitely the best that has been made; it's sweet, charming, funny, and when it aims for poignant it even succeeds at stimulating the tearducts. It's definitely one of the better modern Hollywood romantic comedies out there, and a solid indicator of how good they could be.

NEXT REVIEW: Senario Asam Garam
Expectations: the bullet, it must be bitten


k0k s3n w4i said...

Did you know that "dry-humping" in Malay is "ringan-ringan"? I didn't, but I do know! if you're anything like me, you'd like your readers to point out your typos so you can fix them :)

i would have watched this if your review came out sooner. instead, i caught a 4:10pm showing of the extended versh of avatar instead. most important thing first: there's no deleted bits from the taming of toruk sequence, grrr D: most of the extra bits are nice, but i can see why they were trimmed.

i like justin long. they should totally make a spinoff of his character in zack and miri make a porno, if you ask me. after all, they spinned aldous snow out of forgetting sarah marshall and the result is awesome (or so i heard).

for some reason, until today, i thought you're a malay guy.

The Poyo Me said...

Awesome there. I guess I will watch.
But a part of my concern remains unanswered though, Justin Long to me is a little too young to be Drew Barrymore's squeeze. Does it look awkward on screen?

TMBF said...

@k0k s3n w4i: Huh? I don't see a typo.

@The Poyo Me: Barrymore does look a little older than Long. But they have awesome chemistry, so it didn't matter to me. :)

k0k s3n w4i said...

but I do know!

i fancy you meant to say "now" instead of "know".

TMBF said...

@k0k s3n w4i: Yikes - I must've read that 3 times and still didn't spot it...

Anonymous said...

hey what happened to your senario-asam-garam garam review? don't be tahi hidung masin ok.

TMBF said...

@Anonymous: Sorry, I accidentally posted that before I was done. I'm still working on it right now.

("Tahi hidung masin"? That's a new one to me. ;)

Going The Distance said...

Awesome One ! I will watch it very soon. I have heard about it lot. Let me make plan. I will surely go for it with my friends.