“Getting to Know You” is “Up in the Air” without the air — or airline travel. Or “backpack” speeches.
This light, wistful Canadian romantic comedy clings to its longing and amuses in its awkwardness. Well-cast, well-acted, a touch melancholy and a tad overlong, it’s one of those movies that would have passed me, you and everybody else by if a pandemic hadn’t derailed the global movie-consuming model.
British actress Natasha Little (“The Night Manager”) is Abby, who has flown from London to northern Ontario for a funeral. Rupert Penry Jones (“Black Sails”) is Luke, a Canadian “big city” guy “home” for his high school reunion.
They “meet cute,” late at night, at the “best” hotel in town. The “cute” and memorable part is he’s standing there, wearing a lei, and she’s trying to check in, both of them overhearing two staff members going at it in the office behind the front desk.
“I don’t think it’ll be long now.”
“How long should we give them?”
“About a whole cigarette.”
The terrible service at the Bay Front will be a running gag, rude rude staff members who are more tied up in their own dalliances and melodramatic intrigues than they are in their work. Another running gag? How loud, boorish and indiscreet small-town Canadians are, to a one, in this corner of Ontario.
Abby and Luke? They’re thrown together by this incompetence, two lonely strangers who bond, talk of regrets and find themselves all mixed up in each other’s business.
Because as crushed as Luke was to learn his high school sweetheart married “the paper boy” and brushed off his heartfelt confession of unending love, he’s completely put-out when Kayla (Rachel Blanchard, brash and funny) shows up, drunk, throwing herself at him in his room.
“I haven’t had an orgasm since” is merely the beginning of Kayla’s coital full-court press. She’ll leave her husband and children and run off to New York with her first love!
Only Abby can save him. I mean, “I sympathize, but what can I do?”
That’s where this “Brief Encounter” turns daft. She’ll scare Kayla off, pretending to be Luke’s wife. Only Kayla is too drunk and desperate to scare.
“He loves me more than he loves you, bitch!”
And as pushy and obnoxious as she is, she’s not the worst “old friend” Luke collides with over the next day.
Penry-Jones and Little have a genteel, reserved (they’re both British) chemistry. The laughs come from their collision with assorted Luke classmates, the testier and testier staff at the Bay Front and the preacher/classmate (Duane Murray) who presides at Abby’s late-brother’s funeral.
“It was either this or real-estate — and I was never good on commission!”
Writer-director Joan Carr-Wiggin, who’s been around since “Sleeping with Strangers” (1994), has a sure hand with this material, save for finding a graceful way to exit it. A melancholy sets in when Abby and Luke, two strangers, are left without loopy locals to bounce off of, lie about their “marriage” to on the fly, etc.
But if you’re looking for a little grown-up romance, adults with adult issues and complications that interfere with their chemistry, “Getting to Know You” more than fills the bill.
MPA Rating: unrated, with sexual situations, alcohol abuse and profanity
Cast: Natasha Little, Rupert Penry-Jones, Rachel Blanchard, Duane Murray
Credits: Scripted and directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Running time: 1:43