17 Aug 2022

Review: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

From At The Movies, 7:30 pm on 17 August 2022

Last week I wondered why Hollywood stars tended to keep making undemanding, big-budget movies simply for the money.  

Now I like money as well as anyone of course, but my point was that it seemed a waste of good actors to put them in endless streams of rubbish. Could they not stretch themselves occasionally, like their English equivalents?

The English equivalent I was thinking of this week was Emma Thompson. 


Photo: supplied

Thompson, and Olivia Colman, and Benedict Cumberbatch, and Ben Wishaw are all actors first, and movie stars very much second. It’s unlikely that Brad Pitt gets offered many scripts like Good luck To You, Leo Grande.

Leo Grande looks as if it started out as a stage play – it’s mostly one set, it takes place over four meetings – but I believe Katy Brand’s script, directed by Australian Sophie Hyde, was always destined for the screen.

It opens on 60-year-old Nancy –Thompson – meeting Leo in a hotel room.  He’s a sex worker, hired for the next two hours to give Nancy everything she missed out on in her marriage.

Leo – Irish, much younger than Nancy – is played by newcomer Daryl McCormack.

That’s pretty much the entire story of Good Luck To You, Leo Grande,  though it’s spread out over four encounters in as many weeks.  

Leo slowly gets Nancy comfortable with her feelings, and Nancy and Leo - against all odds - get to know and like each other.

The obvious recent parallel, I suppose, is the Australian sex comedy How To Please a Woman, with fewer obvious jokes. 

But it’s better than that. I was reminded of an American drama, The Sessions, starring Helen Hunt as a sex therapist.   Certainly, Leo is like very few sex workers in movies – male or female.

He’s warm, amusing, happy in his own skin and, it seems, in his chosen career.  

And part of the character’s charm – and what stops him from being too good to be true – is the easy relationship McCormack has with the legendary Dame Emma.

It’s always been a mystery to me how someone as delightfully flaky as Thompson so often is on TV talk shows, can be so dazzling -  even heart-breaking on screen.  

There’s a reason why she’s one of my favourite actors – and it’s not just that she seems incapable of striking a false note in anything she’s in.

It’s that she takes anyone she shares the screen with along with her. 

Watching Nancy and Leo first tiptoeing round each other, then sparring, then finding a way to work together, you forget how much more experienced Thompson is than McCormack.  You forget there are even performances going on.  

There are just two people being stripped down to their basics as the story unfolds. 

As you no doubt have picked up from the publicity, the stripping down isn’t just figurative. Yes, there’s nudity, but it’s also – I hate it when people say this – totally essential to the film. 

After all, this is a woman who’s completely uncomfortable with herself, and any happy ending is going to depend on her getting over that.

I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that the ending of Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is as happy and as satisfying as the title.  But with a film starring the eminent Thompson, you’d expect no less.  

Oscars all round, I’d say. Unless she comes up with a better film this year, which she’s more than capable of doing.

Listen to Emma Thompson on her role in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande on Nine to Noon here.

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