A winning charmer in 'Good Luck to You, Leo Grande'

  • Nancy (Emma Thompson), left, lets loose a little in the presence of Leo (Daryl McCormack) in "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande."

    Nancy (Emma Thompson), left, lets loose a little in the presence of Leo (Daryl McCormack) in "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande." Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

 
 
Posted6/17/2022 6:00 AM

"Good Luck to You, Leo Grande" -- ★ ★ ★

Female desire is not a topic that gets a lot of space in mainstream Hollywood movies. And the desire of women north of 45? It's often either played for humor or sanitized. It's as if someone decided that audiences couldn't possibly bear to watch a woman of menopause age acting or even feeling sexual.

 

That's all to say that it is a small miracle that "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande," a smart, nuanced and adamantly sex-positive film about a 55-year-old woman, exists. In the film, written by Katy Brand and directed by Sophie Hyde, Emma Thompson plays said woman. Nancy is a retired religion teacher and somewhat recent widow who hires a handsome young sex worker, the titular Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), for a night.

We're introduced to the characters, in a perfect, dialogue-free sequence right before they meet. It tells you a lot about who they are and how they exist in the world, but not everything. There's basically 90 minutes of wide-ranging conversations to follow that will help flesh out that whole conundrum.

Nancy arrives at the tasteful hotel room armed with a sensible overnight roller bag, wearing a modest pencil skirt, matching blazer and floral blouse. She's flustered and rumpled and nervous as she switches from her flats to heels and checks the minibar. Leo, meanwhile, is a picture of youthful confidence and effortlessly put-together. Together they're not much different: She starts questioning her choice, chalking it up to a fit of madness and wondering what it says about her. He, meanwhile, continues to be cool, calm, charming and armed with a perfect response to everything.

Leo (Daryl McCormack) is patient and encouraging with Nancy (Emma Thompson) in "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande."
Leo (Daryl McCormack) is patient and encouraging with Nancy (Emma Thompson) in "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande." - Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
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The main reason for this "fit of madness" is that Nancy has never had an orgasm. She doesn't expect to get one from the session with Leo, but she's found herself with a bit of freedom finally and has a few things she'd like to do. Nancy is deeply unsatisfied with her life, her body, and her grown children (one is too boring, one is too wild).

She can't quite see or appreciate how lucky she is to have found Leo, who is patient and clever and not easy to write off. This drives her a bit mad, too, having lived life according to a set of principles that she knows haven't brought her happiness but that she's not quite ready to let go of yet. And she will at various points over the next 90 minutes sabotage things.

Leo, both as a person and a character, is self-consciously styled as a bit of a fantasy. He's there to be whatever his clients need him to be.

Thompson is truly better than ever and brings to life a complex and evolving person with humor, grace and a sharp edge. McCormack, meanwhile, is a star in the making. And together, the two are magnetic in this wonderfully adult film that is funny, sad, awkward, empowering and illuminating.

• • •

Starring: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack

Directed by: Sophie Hyde

Other: A Searchlight Pictures release on Hulu. Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity and some language. 97 minutes

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