The romantic comedy, more than any other popular genre, is one that tends to stick to narrative conventions - formula, I believe is the word - more than most other genres. You have the obligatory meet-cute, the montage set to a Billboard smash/ quirky indie number, the small misunderstanding, the makeup, the big-huge misunderstanding, and of course the chase-scene climax.
This is all fine, really. The familiarity of the structure also serves to make movies that tend to be easily watchable, pleasant diversions. Often, they're mediocre fluff, with precious little to say, and even lesser inventiveness in how its said (note for instance, any of the recent Katherine Heigl/ Jennifer Aniston stabs at the genre).
Imagine, then, my absolute joy in finding a romantic comedy that actually doesn't dissolve from memory even before the end credits start rolling, and actually has something to say. Going the Distance manages by not just being a story about 2 attractive people falling in love, getting into messy situations, and remaining in love anyway - what it has going for it is that it's as much about the relationship that these characters build. The idea of the story is simple - long distance relationships aren't easy - and it delivers that with a great script that refuses to let its characters be stereotypes, or succumb to stupid plot contrivances. If the relationship has issues, its because of the time and place in their lives that these nice people have met, its because of their stakes in their careers - it is thankfully not about their messed up psychological issues, or even worse, because one of them was hiding some crucial piece of information from the other.
What helps - Justin Long and Drew Barrymore share great, effortless chemistry and are aided by an effortlessly hilarious cast, my favourite being Christina Applegate as Barrymore's protective sister. The script is also unusually raunchy - always a good thing.
A great watch this one, and reaffirms my faith in the genre. Now to the next dozen mediocre titles !