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Going the Distance: a field guide to making a generic Hollywood romantic comedy

Justin Long as Garrett and DREW BARRYMORE as Erin in Going the Distance.

Jessica Miglio/Jessica Miglio

1 out of 4 stars


Going the Distance

  • Directed by Nanette Burstein
  • Written by Geoff LaTulippe
  • Starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long
  • Classification: 14A

A Field Guide to Making a Generic Hollywood Rom-com, or, in this particularly forgettable case, Going the Distance with Going the Distance.

The Script

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You really don't need one, so don't sweat it. Sure, some token obeisance must be paid to the structure of every rom-com ever committed to the big screen - that is, bring the lovers together, create an impediment to romance, then have them surmount the obstacle. How token? Just consider the sterling example here. One lover lives in New York, the other in San Francisco. Impediment: distance. Solution: eliminate distance. Eureka, a script.

The Casting

Any face will do as long as it's familiar, and always err on the side of excessive familiarity. Which makes Drew Barrymore perfect - her face has been around since its child-star days. Now, some might quibble that, at 35, she's past her best-by date for playing an eager intern trying to break into the job market. Happily, the field guide is absolute on this sort of casting issue: Anyone troubled by such niggling concerns has no business making a generic Hollywood rom-com.

And the familiar guy to play opposite our familiar gal? Well, he already shared a credit with Drew in He's Just Not That Into You. And folks love him from all those cute Mac-versus-PC commercials. You know, that Justin Long fellow.

The Setting

Cities are a good choice, with New York and San Francisco ranking high on any list. But feel no compunction to actually capture the city on camera. Instead, to save trouble and expense, shoot mainly interiors - stock-issue bars, apartments, offices - thereby putting the generic into your generic rom-com. Consequently, although the non-existent plot should be set in the present, the formulaic sameness in look and design will give your movie that timelessly bland aura. It could be anywhere at any time because it has been everywhere at every time.

The Filler

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This is where you earn your paycheque. In the virtual absence of a script, filler and padding and other assorted time-wasting techniques are essential. To help in this crucial endeavour, surround the stars with a bunch of second bananas, maybe Christina Applegate and Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day. Sorry to be sexist, but recruit the guys for toilet-humour duty, a perennial favourite. In this instance, Sudeikis can be seen enjoying a bowel movement while quaffing a beer, a triumph of multi-tasking that permits entire minutes to tick off the feature-length clock. That food fight was similarly useful, not to mention Justin's extended visit to a tanning salon. Remember that all this is the cinematic equivalent of landfill, and the audience tends to laugh out of sheer gratitude - without it, they'd drown in nothingness.

The Language

Have every character make extensive use of the f-word as noun, adjective and verb. Where possible, employ phrases that allow for the rhyming substitution of the f-word, phrases like "bucket list." Such liberal dropping of the f-bomb will let you boast that the dialogue is edgy and real. As a bonus, you will have fewer words to write and the actors fewer to memorize.

The Montage

Always insert it after the lovers meet and as they are falling headlong into amour. If in the Big Apple, schedule one location outing for your montage shot, perhaps Coney Island by day or the East Village by night. Tell your stars to smile a lot, stick some bouncy tune on the soundtrack and take pride in the knowledge that you are: 1) adding to the vast library of New York City visual clich├ęs and: 2) wasting even more time.

The Director

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Anyone will do, at least anyone with sufficient vocal command to shout "Action!" and "Cut!" at a volume audible to the crew.

The Reviews

Only read the bottom line of the accountants' review, after your generic masterpiece has gone the distance from theatrical release to video stores to the nethermost regions of the cable dial. If the accountants' judgment proves kind, head to the bank and feel free to enjoy precisely what you've denied so many others - a really good laugh.

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