You could probably pinpoint the exact minute the inevitable break-up between Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Garrett (Justin Long) will occur. Going the Distance is just that formulaic and predictable.
It’s not dead in the water though, which is actually quite a surprise. It keeps itself afloat with loads of raunch, totally embarrassing nudity, and those dialogue exchanges between guy friends that no guy friends actually have. You know, the ones where the kooky friend (oddly on the guys side this time around), dishes out all of the info on relationships? Yeah, those don’t happen. Distance splices in the ones that do happen though to make it all seem okay, from picking up older woman, masturbation strategies, and stories of a previous lay.
At its core, regardless of how zoned in everyone was on that R-rating, there is the relationship, created through some mild chemistry between our leads and style choices from director Nanette Burnstein. One of their first dates is shot digitally with a handheld camera, giving it a very personal touch, the otherwise pointless shared 20-questions conversation suddenly elevated to something more. It adds necessary fuel that needs to be established quickly, Distance living up to the title as they must go their separate ways, Erin unable to find journalistic work in New York after her internship, Garrett stuck in New York promoting boy bands.
They split cross country, Erin living with her sister and her sister’s husband in the meantime. It all leads to the inevitable question of, “Will it work?” and even if the answer is just as inevitable, it’s an entertaining ride to get there. First time screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe obviously knows how to let go, leaving the dialogue out there to build the various stereotypes these characters eventually turn out to be. It’s unlikely anyone will see through the shade of general genre archetypes, but they’re carefree and fun to be around, at times even genuine (if briefly). That has to count for something.
Warner’s VC-1 encode for Distance is so… generic. It’s that rare transfer that struggles with redeeming qualities, holding so few the video presentation, regardless of its positives, sort of meanders around until its over. If it does anything right, the variety of aerial city shots (and there are a lot of them) are stunning. Nighttime views of New York, the transfer’s generally stable blacks aiding tremendously here, creates the sensation of depth. The sharpness and clarity of these views only add to the illusion. Closer to street level, bricks are wholly rendered without flicker or aliasing.
All of those might add up to a minute of the running time, leaving the rest of this film in close where it struggles to maintain its finest qualities. Notably, the grain structure which is actually mild compared to many films, becomes all too apparent for its digital transition. Backgrounds out of focus or solid-colored walls all exhibit some level of noise, inside the newsroom especially a bother behind Barrymore as she leaves her internship.
Those few digital scenes obviously have their own issues to worry about, that early dinner at 21:50 readily apparent as the movie makes a transition into a different realm. Those barely discernible textures from before are completely wiped from the frame for their, well, digital-ness. Not much can be done for those scenes, yet the film elements are still sub-par. Facial detail never becomes striking save for the phone sex sequence around 1:04:45 and even here it’s all quite minimal. Sharpness is consistent, certainly not at fault with few exceptions.
Colors exhibit the dreaded orange flesh tones, not even looking natural after Long’s spray tan. The rest takes on a cooler palette that is pleasing to the eye. Primaries have some depth, and shots involving plant life carry with them some gorgeous, rich greens. Black levels aid in bringing out these hues, save for a bar scene at 48:40 where they suddenly take a dive.
The DTS-HD mix here follows the same course as the video, a shame more so due to the opportunities afforded to it. There are a lot of clubs and bars in the film, even a few concerts, and none of them take hold of the soundtage to reel in some aggressive audio. It’s all very flat, loaded into the fronts where the wide split of the stereo channels is worked in quite well, while the surround are laid out to dry.
What is here is certainly not bad. Those concerts, and the soundtrack, carry weight. The low-end definitely handles some loaded work, rattling the room with a bit of a balance issue at 1:16:42 as some techno blares out of nowhere. Fidelity is up to the modern expectation, clarity superlative and flawless.
Dialogue all blends in, and an interesting bit of sound design at that digitally-filmed dinner sequence is worth noting. Ambient audio, from chatter from other guests to cars honking horns are readily allowed in to give the sequence a natural air. While none of it may find the rears, it’s a great bit of atmosphere in a track that desperately needs some.
A solo commentary comes from Nanette Burstein, and that’s followed up by a series of general featurettes that go nowhere. How to Have the Perfect Date lets the cast discuss their ideas of what that should be, followed by more advice in A Guide to Long Distance Dating. Improv is featured in Off the Cuff, trailed by some deleted scenes with a music video to round it all off.