Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack, along with Katy Brand’s script, make sweet, vulnerable, and benevolent music together.
This review of the Hulu film Good Luck to You, Leo Grande does not contain spoilers.
Hulu’s Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a chamber film where the story takes place in one location over four different meetings. It has a limited cast, focusing on two characters. One is Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson, in one of her best performances), a retired widow and former teacher. She is meeting a man over half her age. He is Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), a sex worker she ordered up hot and ready to go. (Like The Simpsons, I’m predicting the future, and this will be an option for on-demand delivery platforms like Postmates or Grubhub circa 2045). Nancy, though, is as nervous as can be. She loved her husband, but he barely wrinkled the sheets in the sex department. She has confidence issues, by putting herself in a situation as a woman over sixty and being with a man so young.
Nancy reads into almost everything Leo does. From glances, nervous thoughts about only caring about this as a business transaction, or the fact that he needed something like Tequilla from the mini bar to perhaps get through the evening. This is almost a bucket list idea for her. She confesses she has never had an orgasm and to several other sexual desires she needs to cross out. Nancy is experiencing an exploration of her sexual self-discovery, her demeanor, and her age. At the same time, Nancy awakens something in Leo in a way that makes him ruminate about his past.
In the theme Good Luck to You, Leo Grande excels at taking the taboo out of sex. For one, it reveres the Hollywood cliches of always casting a younger woman as a romantic attraction to an older man. The very nature of making this change could make the average filmgoers uncomfortable. Still, the script by Katy Brand (Common Ground) successfully deconstructs the shameful issues many can feel about the subject.
How? For one, the writing has designs for the viewer to relate to Thompson’s Nancy and her insecurities. As her confidence grows, so does the viewer’s. The second, like anyone trying to connect an alliance between a performer and their audience, McCormack’s job is to make Nancy and those who are watching feel comfortable. It’s a startlingly effective technique to win the viewer over. The film is a byproduct of the sex-positive movement. They take the “shaming” of sexuality. This can be taught to enhance respecting individuals’ preferences, consensual practices, and an overall normal, healthy part of life.
The dialogue is perfect, almost lyrical, and moves like musical notes. McCormack, who has several supporting roles in big television shows like The Wheel of Time and Peaky Blinders, may have found a breakout role that will lead to more significant roles and, perhaps, stardom. Yet, the film belongs to the legendary Emma Thompson. As the film progresses, her performance as Nancy becomes a brave one for any performer, no matter her age.
While my relatively minor complaint is that when comparing back stories, Leo’s feels more contrived, director Sophie Hyde’s film is a showcase for English Thompson and the Irish McCormack. They make sweet, vulnerable, and benevolent music together. By the time the final meeting takes place, Thompson’s Nancy has the look and feel of a new person. After watching Good Luck to You, Leo Grande on Hulu, the viewer may come out the other side a different person.
Or at least have a different perspective.
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