Going the Distance
Directed By: Nanette Burstein
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate, Jim Gaffigan
| Studio: New Line/Warner |
Film Length: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Release Date: November 30, 2010
The Film ***Going the Distance tracks the course of a relationship between Erin (Barrymore), a 31 year old woman who is pursuing a degree and career in journalism after letting a previous relationship derail her professional life by about a decade, and Garrett, a New York-based employee of a record company recently dumped by one in a series of girlfriends due to a perceived lack of complete investment in their relationship. They meet while Erin is working as an unpaid intern for a New York newspaper, quickly become smitten with each other, and decide to make a go at a long distance relationship when Erin returns to Stanford to complete her degree. Their resolve is tested by the extended time apart, the lack of opportunities for professional mobility inherent to their occupations in shrinking fields during tough economic times, and somewhat inconvenient living arrangements affording few opportunities for privacy even when they can manage to visit each other in person.
Director Nanette Burstein's first foray into narrative film after a number of successful documentaries attempts to create a fresh spin on the romantic comedy genre by focusing on a surprisingly under-utilized plot device (the long distance relationship), and eschewing the usual fairy tale trappings. The production design and cinematography avoid deeply saturated colors to create an earthy palette, and the sense of reality is enhanced by the fact that large portions of the film are shot in real locations rather than sets constructed on soundstages. Normally polished edges are further roughened by adding a healthy amount of raunchiness to dialog and occasional bits of physical humor. These attempts to distinguish the film from its predecessors are undermined to a large degree by a plot is so predictable that the adjective "inevitable" may actually be a more apt description of it. Visually, once Garrett and Erin's relationship goes "bi-coastal", the film gets a bit unbalanced as the filmmakers clearly have a better grasp of Garrett's New York environment than they do for Erin's Bay Area trappings.
Casting almost saves the day as Barrymore and Long, defying all of the post-"Gigli" era conventional wisdom, demonstrate an appealing chemistry. Further enhancing the proceedings is a supporting cast filled with ringers such as Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate, Jim Gaffigan, Ron Livingston, Rob Riggle, Leighton Meester, Kristen Schaal, and Matt Servitto who are given opportunities in roles large and small to steal scenes and take the film off on entertaining tangents. The weak links in the menagerie of secondary characters are Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Kelli Garner who are given thankless roles as half-hearted sources of temptation for Barrymore and Long's characters. The characters are written as minor plot devices and there is not much the actors could have done to make them more interesting save for lobbying to have their scenes cut from the film.
In the end, though, despite the subdued visuals, raunchy humor, and picaresque supporting characters the film never manages to transcend its predictable and overly familiar plot structure. Even though it is not likely to be a film I will revisit often (or even remember all that well), I did find it good for more than a few chuckles and would recommend it as a rental for fans of the lead actors or romantic comedies in general.
The Video ***The video comes courtesy of a VC-1 encoded 1080p presentation letterboxed to the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1. As director Burstein explains on her commentary track, the filmmakers made efforts to avoid the "fairy tale" visual approach of many other romantic comedies, and that is reflected in the cinematography. Most of the film looks a bit muted and grainy. The video transfer and encoding reflects this accurately, inclusive of a "falling in love" montage during the film's first act where a viewer can easily recognize which pieces of it were shot in high-definition video due to the sudden absence of grain and a quicker drop-off to black in the shadows.
The Audio ***The DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 track presents the film's conservative theatrical mix with decent fidelity. The mix focuses almost exclusively on the front channels with minimal to no use of the surrounds for either discrete effects or general ambience. One would think that the scenes set in rock clubs would be prime opportunities for creating three dimensional ambience, but aside from a little reverberation applied to the voice of the singer from "The Boxer Rebellion", there is not much happening in the mix. Alternate language dubs are available in Dolby Digital 5.1 in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
The Extras **½Special features on this disc are all presented in 1080p VC-1 encoded video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound unless otherwise indicated below. They are divided up under three headings on the disc menu.
Under the menu heading of Behind the Story, are the following features:
Audio Commentary from Director Nanette Burstein is a dry, but detail-rich track that runs the full-length of the movie with only minimal gaps. Burstein covers a wide variety of topics that give insight to many of the creative and technical decisions that went into producing her first non-documentary feature film. This is by far the most comprehensive extra on the disc and is worth a listen for fans of the film.
How to Have the Perfect Date (7:51) is a very slight featurette in which cast members answer questions posed by on screen titles about good and bad ways to approach a date. There are a few humorous moments, but I cannot imagine anyone wanting to watch this twice. Comments are provided by Drew Barrymore ("Erin"), Christina Applegate ("Corinne"), Charlie Day ("Dan"), Jason Sudeikis ("Box"), and Justin Long ("Garrett").
A Guide to Long Distance Dating (7:57) has various cast and creative behind the scenes people discussing the hardships of maintaining long distance relationships both as illustrated in the movie and as experienced personally. It includes a smattering of behind the scenes information as well concerning how the actors and director were drawn to the project, but nothing that is not covered more thoroughly in the Director's Commentary track. Comments are provided by Producer Adam Shankman, Day, Sudeikis, Barrymore, Long, Producer Jennifer Gibgot, Screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe, Burstein, Kelli Garner ("Brianna"), and Applegate.
The Cast of Going the Distance: Off the Cuff (4:19) is a collection of various improvisations not used in the final film, some of which are very funny. It features brief introductory comments from Shankman and Burstein with an even briefer closing comment from Sudeikis.
Under the heading of Deleted Scenes is, to nobody's surprise...
Deleted Scenes (12:48) is a collection of extended, deleted, or alternate scenes not used in the finished film. They are presented as a continuous "roll" with no chapter stops or ability to choose individual scenes separately through the disc menu. Most of them are interesting and many are very funny. All of the deletions decribed by Burstein on the film's commentary track that sounded interesting were included either hear or in the "Off the Cuff" collection of improvisations, so viewers who have made it through the commentary would be advised to watch these two features immediately after:
- After a discussion with a mopey Garrett, Dan and Box discuss his sadness and the possibility that it may lead to the availability of his apartment for Box.
- A completely alternate version of the the same scene, except when Garrett leaves the table, Dan calls to cancel a prostitute he had hired for Garrett.
- Garrett runs down the stairs to retrieve clothes from his suitcase and is seen naked by Erin's sister Nanette.
- After his big romantic gesture at the airport, Garrett learns that his car has been towed.
- Garrett, Dan, and Box discuss the seediness and possible ties to Russian organized crime of the club Dan and Box have chosen prior to Erin's arrival. Erin arrives, gives Box a bit of grief, and then encourages everyone to drink vodka in keeping with the club's Russian mob vibe.
- Erin has several inconvenient experiences at the airport and on the plane en route to seeing Garrett in New York, capped off by being seated in between a bickering couple headed for divorce. The wife is played by Charlie Day's real-life wife, actress Mary Elizabeth Ellis.
- Corrine stumbles across the aftermath of Garrett and Erin's cake and sex night. (On the film commentary track, Burstein explains that this scene was deleted because it made Garrett and Erin seem too rude.)
- Corrine and Erin discuss her job offer from a newspaper with Corrine strongly insisting that Erin take the job despite her misgivings. The conversation quickly devolves into shouting
Under the heading of Music are the following two features:
If You Run Music Video by "The Boxer Rebellion" (3:25) includes a complete performance of the song heard in a rock club scene in the film with the bands mimed on-stage performance intercut with clips from the film focusing primarily on Barrymore and Long. As a music video, it is pretty unimaginative, but fans of the song may enjoy hearing the whole thing.
Going the Distance Soundtrack - Behind the Scenes (2:27)is a brief promo in which behind the scenes footage and film clips are mixed with a group interview in which the members of "The Boxer Rebellion" discuss their music, their band history, how they came to be involved with the film, and their impressions of the filmmaking process. There is not much to it, but it is worth at least one viewing due to the unintentionally funny pretentious bass player.
SD DVD & Digital Copy - As is the case with all recent Warner BDs of theatrical new release titles, a separate disc is included with an SD DVD of the film and a digital copy. The DVD presentation is bare bones with the film in 16:9 enhanced widescreen video, English Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, and available English SDH, French, or Spanish subtitles. It has no extras or chapter menu. The video carries noticeable but not excessive signs of mpeg-2 compression and minor aliasing, but is otherwise a very solid standard definition presentation. Given the limitations of the source material, the standard definition presentation is less of a step-down in quality than is usually the case from a high-definition counterpart.
The digital copy is on-disc, and is compatible with either iTunes or Windows Media formats. It is unlocked through the use of a one-time password provided on a paper insert to the disc case.
PackagingThe disc is enclosed in a standard Blu-ray case with an extra hub on the inner left side allowing it to accommodate the DVD/digital copy disc as well as the BD of the film. The only insert is the sheet with the code to unlock the iTunes or Windows Media digital copy. The Blu-ray case is in turn surrounded by a cardboard slipcover with identical artwork to the hard case insert aside form some added text promoting the SD DVD and digital copy.
Summary ***Going the Distance, the first fictional narrative film from successful documentary filmmaker Nanette Burstein, is a romantic comedy focusing on the difficulties of maintaining a long distance relationship. It tries to transcend its genre by throwing subdued realistic visuals and raunchy humor in the mix with the standard three act relationship arc storyline. Results are mixed. That being said, it is worth at least a single viewing thanks to a talented cast top-lined by real life on-again off-again couple Drew Barrymore and Justin Long and for the inclusion of enough chuckles to justify the time spent watching it. It is presented on Blu-ray with visuals detailed enough to expose both the positives and negative aspects of how it was shot, and a plain vanilla DTS-HD MA lossless audio mix that makes little use of the 5.1 surround field. Extras are top-lined by an informative commentary by Director Burstein along with some promo-oriented featurettes, an amusing roll of unused improvisations, and a collection of deleted scenes.