Nanette Burstein’s ‘Going the Distance’: A Hidden Gem Worth Remembering

As part of our Sister Series, FF2 Media Vice President Brigid Presecky and Engagement Manager Georgi Presecky discuss their favorite films by female filmmakers. Be sure to click on the film titles for full reviews.


For today’s sister chat, we’re going to be discussing the 2010 romantic comedy Going the Distance which is directed by Nanette Burstein who we had the privilege of meeting at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City this year and she most recently did a docuseries Hillary on Hulu about the presidential campaign and life of Hilary Rodham Clinton, but this is her only feature film. She’s directed a lot of documentaries and this is her only feature and it’s starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long and they play a couple who meet in New York and have a six-week courtship and romance before she has to go back home to San Francisco where she finishes grad school and it’s about their long distance relationship. 

Why do you think we chose this movie for this assignment?


I think it’s perfect for this time when people are trying to maintain relationships, not necessarily even romantic relationships, and this movie’s already a decade old and they show them like talking on the phone and over videos on their computers and I just think that’s where we’re at right now, kind of just thrust into this new reality we’re all living in and this movie’s not only funny and cute and sweet, it’s really relevant for this time.  

What do you think makes Going the Distance set apart from other romantic comedies?

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long in Going the Distance (2010) Photo by Jessica Miglio – © MMIX New Line Productions, Inc.


I think that the chemistry of the leads is so obvious and they’re so cute together, but I also think it’s a really cute movie because the main characters are together basically from the beginning. They meet, they’re together, and they try to make it work the whole movie, which I think is really rare for a lighthearted comedy. It’s usually all the drama  and tension that leads to a couple getting together in a kind of a will-they-won’t-they, even though you know that they will, but this couple, they’re together from the start and it’s about them trying to make it work despite very realistic circumstances. 

One of the things I love is Drew Barrymore’s character Erin, she’s an intern at a New York newspaper and she’s in graduate school studying journalism and one of the things that’s keeping her from this guy who she loves so much is her career and wanting to be a reporter and I think that’s really relevant right now because she has a hard time getting a job and the newspaper industry is really struggling right now and I know that’s kind of a weird angle to take on this really sweet comedy, but it weirdly felt very relevant, especially for women in the workplace right now, and it felt like a very realistic obstacle that they had to overcome, in addition to just being a cute, funny film.


Definitely, and there are guaranteed laughs in this just not only from the leads, which have such great chemistry on their own between Justin Long and Drew Barrymore, but you have Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jim Gaffigan, Christina Applegate, Rob Riggle, June Diane Raphael, Kristen Schaal, Ron Livingston. This cast is insane and it’s unbelievable how underrated it is.  

Nanette Burstein and Eric Steelberg in Going the Distance (2010) Photo by Jessica Miglio – © MMIX New Line Productions, Inc.


And it’s definitely worth watching because Burstein, like I said, does documentaries, but this is her only feature and I think it’s totally free of melodrama. It’s really not cheap or clichéd. It’s very thoughtful and funny and it almost feels like a documentary about this couple and their very realistic obstacles, so I think her background as an Oscar-nominated documentarian really kind of came into play and made it like a special fiction film to watch. And one other thing that I think is worth mentioning is that Drew Barrymore has always been an activist and advocate for women in film and she directed Whip It in 2008, so she’s been in a lot of things directed by women, I believe. 

If you’re looking for a smart, romantic comedy for a change, this one’s on Amazon Prime and it’s just really good. It’s fun and funny in an old kind of take-your-mind-off-of -the-fact-that-you-can’t-really-connect-with-people-right-now-in-a-meaningful-way way and that that’s okay and people have been dealing with it for a long time, obviously under very different circumstances. 


I also think this movie’s good for the sister chat because Christina Applegate, even though it’s a small role, she plays Drew Barrymore’s older sister and she’s very protective of her, and I think this is actually a sweet sister story. I don’t know if it passes the Bechdel-Wallace test per se because the story is about this main, romantic relationship. So even though I don’t think it passes that, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing because I think the Applegate’s character of the older sister is saying like “Don’t give up your life for a guy … again.” So even though they’re talking about a guy, its intentions are really good.


You’re right, I think all the way around it’s really well intentioned and it’s definitely worth watching. And if you want to read our interview with Nanette Burstein about her new docuseries on Hulu, we can link to that here.  

© Brigid K. Presecky and Georgiana E. Presecky (4/27/20) FF2 Media

Drew Barrymore and Christina Applegate in Going the Distance (2010) Photo by Jessica Miglio – © MMIX New Line Productions, Inc.

Featured image: Drew BarrymoreNanette Burstein, and Justin Long in Going the Distance (2010) Photo by Jessica Miglio – © MMIX New Line Productions, Inc. All rights reserved

Tags: Going the Distance, Nanette Burstein

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