After a life of unfulfillment, retired teacher Nancy Stokes enlists the help of escort Leo Grande and together they find new physical and emotional levels of intimacy
Emma Thompson proves sexy is a not an age but a state of mind in director Sophie Hydes‘ comedy drama ‘Good Luck to You, Leo Grande’. Emma is Nancy Stokes, a mother, widow and recent retiree who has an extensive list of disappointments. From her children to her deceased husband to her former students, she feels she has failed or at least has serious regrets in most aspects of her life.
One area she is finally willing to rectify is her sexuality and pleasure. Having spent her entire adult life married, she has suffered through a mundane sex life, never having the confidence to ask for more or the ability to fulfil the sexual desires she had when she was a much younger lady. She hires escort Leo Grande who quickly informs her he isn’t selling sex but his time, so they are doing nothing illegal. So begins their joint journey of self-discovery.
The film plays out very much like a play or theatre stage show, with most of the scenes taking place in just one location, the hotel room. While this may have been billed as a ‘sex’ comedy, most of the first half of the movie is filled with conversations and debates around the morality of sex work. Nancy being a former teacher lectured against the kind of ‘exploitation’ that normally accompanies sex work. So, she is caught between her ‘moral stand’ and her desire to experience some decent sexual experiences before it’s too late.
This style of films can be tricky to pull off as the mainly two-person cast means the audience have to be interested and engaged enough by these characters for the films hour and a half-run time. Emma Thompson fully commits to this character and delivers a vulnerable, endearing (and occasionally jarring) performance. Daryl McCormack holds his own opposite this veteran actor and delivers his lines with the slick smoothness you would expect from a real-life gigolo. But it’s within his quiet moments, his slight glances when alone, hint enough to understand there are other issues just below the surface.
‘Good Luck to You, Leo Grande’ had few laughs but not nearly enough sex to be labeled a ‘sex comedy’. It’s a drama which raises some interesting questions around more mature sexuality and hammers home it’s message on the benefits of having a regulated sex industry, which I agreed. The performances are subtle but masterful and Emma Thompsons commitment to her role is brave and admirable.
I was asked by a friend if the film was like a reverse ‘Pretty Woman’, with an older lady romancing a younger sex worker. I swiftly answered ‘no’! This is definitely not a rom com, more of a social commentary about the sex industry, finding beauty and acceptance in yourself and realising it’s never too late to chase unfulfilled dreams. As long as you temper your expectations to expect more talk and less sex, you should find this an eye opening, intimate and engrossing film.