Next weekend, Going The Distance — yet another star-studded romantic comedy — will be hitting screens headlined by Drew Barrymore and Justin Long.
However, the movie might catch some people off guard since it’s a far more realistic representation of a relationship than audiences are used to from the genre.
“A lot of romantic comedies are fairy tales, which are fun to watch, but I really wanted to make a film that was more grounded,” director Nanette Burstein told Metro.
She’s an interesting choice to infuse the rom-com with realism as well, given that Burstein’s previous experience has been in documentaries, including the Oscar-nominated On The Ropes and American Teen.
“Ever since film school I’ve wanted to make non-fiction and fiction movies,” revealed the director. “I’ve been reading a lot of different scripts from the studios to direct and I really responded to this. I loved the tone, the honesty, the humour.”
Going The Distance is about a seemingly ideal couple who live on opposite sides of America. Obviously that leads to misunderstandings and a variety of zany shenanigans involving phone sex and mistaken infidelity. But there’s also a lot of anger, frustration, and emotion that grounds the film with some surprisingly harsh realities.
For Burstein, making the film as realistic as possible was of vital importance and it even led to shooting scenes with her two stars in New York unannounced and without a crew as if it were a documentary.
“We were so stealth and had such small cameras that people didn’t even realize that Drew and Justin were there. Most people just walked by, which was exciting for the actors.”
Burstein in her own words
On choosing real-life couple Drew Barrymore and Justin Long
“I deliberately chose a real couple because they had such a wonderful natural chemistry together and also because the movie has lot of comedy in it involving things like phone sex and sex on a dining room table. So it was great to have two actors who felt so comfortable with each other. That way they could just really go for it with the comedy.”
On Justin Long’s curious work habits
“Justin couldn’t stop getting naked on set with Drew. He seemed to love it.”
How documentaries prepared her for fiction
“There was actually a lot that I could draw upon, primarily from being able to draw a story out of life. As a fiction director, especially when you’re helping develop the script or rewriting it on set, I think your sense of story is really important. Also knowing how to make people very comfortable on camera. Helping real people feel comfortable on camera isn’t that different from helping actors feel very natural on camera.”