Even in the era of Skype and Foursquare, it is hard to stay connected when one half of a couple is in New York and the other half is in California. Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Garrett (real-life on-and-off beau Justin Long) meet just as she is finishing up a newspaper internship in New York and getting ready to go back to California to finish school. They immediately bond over the Centipede arcade game and playing trivia. Within hours of meeting they have a tipsy but tender sexual encounter (to the strains of the “Top Gun” soundtrack). They like each other. And just as they discover how much, she has to go back home.
So what comes next is the kind of old-fashioned courtship people used to have before they went to bed together, in the days when people did not take their clothes off until they decided they probably loved each other first. The essential sunny sweetness Barrymore brings to the role and the almost-quaintness of the way they try to stay close when they are far provide a tender grounding to the chaos around the couple caused by economic conditions in both of their fields (he works for a record label) and the usual gang of quirky friends and relatives who exist to populate romantic comedies. I believe they have evolved from the classical Greek chorus as a device for exposition and making the main characters seem normal by comparison and also lovably tolerant.
Here the surrounding group is top-notch, with Christina Applegate, who is superb as Erin’s tightly wound but affectionate sister and Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as Garrett’s clueless but affectionate guy-buddies. The raunchy humor is delivered in a matter-of-fact way that can be very funny and true to the honest spirit of the characters and the pressures of the economy are lightly but effectively conveyed. The best news about the script is that it avoids the usual rom-com staples of misunderstandings and incompetence. Director Nanette Burstein and her movie trust us and trust its characters as it allows them to learn to trust each other.
Parents should know that this movie has extremely explicit sexual banter and humor with constant strong and crude language and comic and serious sexual references and situations with brief nudity. A character is shown on the toilet. Characters drink, including drinking to deal with stress and getting drunk; they also smoke, and use drugs.
Family discussion: What is the hardest part about maintaining a long-distance relationship? What was the most important thing keeping Erin and Garrett together? How did their friends and Erin’s sister help and how did they make it more difficult?
If you like this, try: “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Boys on the Side”