Going the Distance (R) ★★★

Review Date: September 2nd, 2010

When the animated opening credits of Warner Bros. Going the Distance begin, a barrage of colorful images envelope the screen, shaking and shifting to the sounds of contemporary pop-rock like a hipster-chick in a SoHo lounge. It sets the tone for a lighthearted but levelheaded romantic comedy that, like the music, is cool and crafty, but not completely above the clichés of the tried-and-true genre.

Making her feature-film directorial debut, Oscar-nominated documentarian Nanette Burstein (On the Ropes) set out to make a film that, as she put it, "would feel as real as possible" – a tough job when taking on a studio comedy. But with a relatable premise, a punchy script and a cast that possesses a ton of personality, she succeeds at delivering a surprisingly fresh film that chronicles the pros and cons of a long-distance relationship between Justin Long's Garrett and Drew Barrymore's Erin.

The first half hour is filled with the standard situational set-ups and character introductions that one expects from any film. We learn everything we need (and want) to know about Garrett and Erin: He's a New York record label workhorse and she's an aspiring journalist interning at a metropolitan newspaper. They frequent the same dive bar in downtown Manhattan and have a beer and barbeque-wings fueled fling which turns into a steady summer-long relationship. But all good things must come to an end, and as September approaches, she prepares to head back to Stanford for another semester, much to their mutual dismay. However, the feelings between them are sincere and they decide to give their spatially challenged relationship a shot.

Real-life couple Long and Barrymore have a few touching moments throughout the film, mostly when the trials of their long-distance relationship take a toll, but they are a bore in comparison to the supporting cast. Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day bring frat-house etiquette and bro-mantic charm to the movie as Garrett's best friends Box and Dan. Together, they are the living embodiment of testosterone and man-child — archetypes that have become all-too common in current rom-coms — but with legitimately funny performances, they really pay off. Christina Applegate is good for a load of laughs as Erin's older sister Corinne, who is skeptical of Erin's eagerness to engage in yet another risky romance; she steals the show with her unrelenting commentary.

Going the Distance doesn't break new ground within the genre or redefine cinematic romance, but it balances the sweet and sour moments of its story very well. Burstein minimizes the drama and keeps the comedy raw to maximize the entertainment value of the movie, which should please all who purchase a ticket. Somehow, the long distance dilemma hasn't been tackled on film before and that makes the movie appear to be more original that it really is, but in a year where so few romantic comedies have brought the goods (The Back-Up Plan, Sex and the City 2), Going the Distance does just that.

Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.