Lost And Found Series: Chapter 9 Getting It Right
Welcome back to the Lost and Found Series. I hope everybody enjoyed splashing around, gasping for air with the likes of a charismatic Paul Newman in The Drowning Pool. In part nine of our series we shall explore an even more obscure film in a less celebrated genre, the eighties British comedy. Ever seen the one with the socially awkward man that works in a West End hair salon managed by Tony Cook, who ends up having three women including Helena Bonham Carter and Jane Horrocks falling for him? Did I mention it was directed by Randall Kleiser who also helmed Grease? Ladies and gentlemen this week we will be trying our best at…Getting It Right.
Film: Getting It Right
Cast: Jesse Birdsall, Jane Horrocks, Helena Bonham Carter and Lynn Redgrave
Director: Randal Kleiser
Writers: Elizabeth Jane Howard and Rusty Lemorande (uncredited)
Now my fellow Lost and Founders this would be a fitting time to familiarise yourselves with the first chapter of the Lost and Found Series ‘To Hell and Back’. Early on it is established that one seeks out films that have rare premises, and unique collaborations that stick out in the director’s discography when compared to their other work. What establishes Getting It Right from other eighties British comedies and films in generally is the odd yet noteworthy talent involved. The cast mainly consist of actors that were fresh faces at the time and would go on to have very successful careers with the likes of Jane Horrocks and Helena Bonham Carter. Also we have Jesse Birdsall. Some of you at this moment may be wondering why that name is familiar. It is probably due to the fact that Birdsall starred in the ill-fated ‘Eldorado’, an infamous BBC nineties soap drama made to rescue the BBC’s ratings but nearly ended up closing the channel down due to the outlandish budget and poor reviews. The theme may jog ones memory slightly.
The most bizarre choice of the film is arguably its director Randal Kleiser. If you enjoyed Flight of the Navigator, The Blue Lagoon, Honey I Blew Up the Kid and sang along to Grease then you are familiar with Kleiser’s work. Range seems to be Kleiser’s game. This ties in with the background history of the film. Not much can be found about how Getting It Right was made. However, I have managed to find some interesting interviews that are quite insightful about why Kleiser was attracted to the material.
After making Grease, Kleiser was offered many studio projects. However, he became infatuated with classic sixties comedies such as Alfie, The Knack and Darling which culturally reflected Swinging London. He then read Getting It Right by novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, Kleiser realised this was the right movie to make as it was different from his previous efforts but also dealt with familiar content such as coming-of-age issues.
Gavin Lamb (Jesse Birdsall) is a socially awkward, nerdy thirty-one year old virgin that lives with his over protective mother and father and has a job as a hairdresser. One night he reluctantly goes to a party and ends up falling for the hostess Joan (Lynn Redgrave) an older millionaire looking for true love that takes a liking to him. He also meets Lady Minerva Munday (Helena Bonham Carter) a sweet yet troublesome party girl. Gavin then finds himself smitten with his shy assistant Jenny (Jane Horrocks) after going out with her on a few dates and becomes more confused about what his heart wants.
Getting It Right evokes a sense of nostalgia from the opening credits and it’s easy to see why. Kleiser was very determined to get the film made and this comes through in the handling of the material. We begin with a candid narration from our restrained protagonist talking to the audience about how nervous he feels when being around women and why he feels he cannot do much about it. Although the film has a Swinging sixties affection and approach, the tone and atmosphere feels very eighties but with the eye from someone that is fascinated with the era. Kleiser makes it seem as if he was a resident of London at the time, he opts out of easy crowd pleasers of showing iconic buildings and typical areas instead for more ordinary scenery such as people walking in crowds in the West End and slight sightings of tube stations. Social commentary such as class issues and ideologies are dealt with in a manner that is welcome and not too heavy handed. This is elevated by the delightful performances and fitting dialogue where all the characters are fully developed even if they only appear on screen for a limited amount of time.
Birdsall does a great job of having the hard task of being a memorable leading man in a role where his character would rather fade into the background and not be the center of attention. The audience gets to see his late coming-of-age journey start off in mumbled speech and gradually developed into more confident tone without being too apparent or forced. While the film does have a novelist approach in terms of dealing with the dramatic and comedic events in episodic stages, this is done successfully through scenes that prioritise character development rather than the plot.
This also balances the light comedy aspect of the film as more serious topics would have otherwise felt out of place and drown the upbeat mood. It is told through the point-of-view of Gavin and Kleiser successfully never makes one feel like an outsider but rather like we are going on a journey filled with odd personalities with the naive eyes of Gavin. For example Lady Minerva Munday is a dark, funny and enthusiastic soul that is quite loud. However, the more subtle and sweet Jenny is hardly focused on at the beginning but surprisingly starts to have a huge impact on Gavin’s life in the middle of the film. Most other romantic comedies would go wrong by making it obvious from the very beginning that Jenny is the right girl for Gavin even though he doesn’t know it. That would make the viewer feel as if they are always one step ahead of him. However, here the patience and great chemistry work well and one can empathise with Gavin and go on a journey with him rather than ahead of him. It is these literary nuances that make Getting It Right worth watching and an unfairly forgotten treat that deserves more praise.
Here it is in parts on YouTube: