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Film review: Getting It Right

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"Getting It Right" is a delightfully funny and warm romantic comedy in the "shy guy" genre, films about men who dream about women because they're too shy to ask them out, which would include everything from such Steve Martin vehicles as "Roxanne" and "The Lonely Guy" to any number of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd comedies of old.

"Getting It Right" is a British film, with Jesse Birdsall as a 31-year-old hairdresser who still lives with his parents and has never asked a woman for a date.

He's a decent fellow who longs for a "normal" life and a loving relationship, but he's so concerned about other people's feelings he doesn't seem to do anything for himself.

Needless to say he considers himself an oddity, excusing himself by suggesting he's simply set standards too high for the woman of his dreams. But the truth is he's too scared to make the first move. Yet, as played by Birdsall, he's never nerdy or obnoxiously awkward — in other words, not a caricature. Instead he is merely charmingly quiet, not ridiculously so.

Birdsall's best friend is a gay movie makeup artist involved in an unhappy relationship with a gadabout hunk. He tries to get Birdsall out of his muddle by taking him to a party one night, but the reluctant Birdsall can't seem to enjoy himself.

Before long he is noticed by the hostess (Lynn Redgrave), an attractive middle-aged woman who hides behind a red fright wig and glasses without lenses. She engages him in a game of "secrets," wherein both reveal true secrets about themselves. In doing so she helps him take the first steps in opening up, and gets him on that road to making changes in his life, which is what the rest of the film is about.

At the party Birdsall also meets zany Helena Bonham Carter, who forces herself into his life and is later revealed to have some serious problems. (Birdsall meeting her mother and stepfather, the latter dryly played by John Gielgud, is the film's most hilarious scene).

And finally he begins a tentative romance at the hair salon with his young assistant (the wonderful Jane Horrocks), who has been right under his nose for two years though he's never noticed her.

"Getting It Right" certainly gets it right, a wonderfully wry, witty and very realistic and touching comedy, alternating uproarious sequences — the chocolate chicken dinner is a riot — with genuinely tender moments. But never slipping into parody or slapstick.

And the biggest surprise is that bundle of joy comes from American director Randal Kleiser, whose previous efforts — from "Grease" to "Summer Lovers" to "The Blue Lagoon" to last year's "Big Top Pee-wee" — could hardly have prepared us for this.

The only major drawbacks are a voice-over narration by Birdsall that tends to point out obvious jokes in unsubtle ways, and an unnecessary nude sex scene with Lynn Redgrave, which accounts for the R rating (there is also some brief nudity of Carter and a couple of scattered vulgarities).

Otherwise it's simply terrific.