After hitting it off over beer and bar trivia, Erin and Garrett (Drew Barrymore and Justin Long) enjoy a wonderful summer fling in New York. But since she lives in San Francisco and he works in the Big Apple, they'll have to make continent-sized compromises if they're in it for the long haul. Christina Applegate is on fine, big sisterly form in a refreshingly earthy and un-mushy romcom that proves you don't have to sugar-coat something to make it a treat.
Laced with 80s pop culture references and buoyed by the easy chemistry between sometime real-life item Barrymore and Long, it's great to see a romantic comedy that aims to please an audience closer to forty than fourteen.
The illegal-to-dislike Barrymore is Erin, a Californian grad student on a summer internship with a New York newspaper.
One night in the pub, she has her arcade game ruined by recently dumped record company lackey Garrett (Long). He makes amends by treating her to beer and a bong... before taking her breath away with a bit of Berlin and a bonk.
Happily, their romance extends beyond one night to the rest of the summer. But return to San Francisco. The question is: do they have the stamina for a long-distance relationship?
With physical liaisons limited by cash and time, the pair realise that a virtual love life is no substitute for the real thing. Inevitably, the back-and-forth brings more downs than ups as frustration leads to jealousy and resentment.
Director Nanette Burstein's background as a documentarian serves her first fiction well. Best known for people-centred docs The Kid Stays In The Picture, American Teen and the Oscar-nominated On The Ropes, she injects a welcome dose of reality into what are otherwise conventional romcom proceedings.
The situations and characters are strictly stock, from the conflict between Garrett's career and Erin's aspirations to his uncouth best friends (Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, set to reteam with Jennifer Aniston on the 2011 comedy Horrible Bosses) and her grimly married, clean-freak sister (the ever-dependable Applegate).
But while the solution to the transcontinentally divided couple's woes is also pretty obvious, the whole cast make reaching it an enjoyable struggle.
Where Going The Distance really scores is at the grown-up level. It's rare to find a Hollywood world where people treat sex as both fun and funny, swear liberally but naturally, and can even enjoy a drink without being painted as rehab candidates.
A feelgood breeze kept fresh by winning performances, it's worth going the extra mile for.