Emma Thompson shines as a middle-aged woman, and Daryl McCormack is a revelation as her sex worker.
Last March, I had to deal with the otherwise charming Ana de Armas playing the mean-spirited fornicator in Adrian Lyne’s “Deep Water” aggravating Ben Affleck as her husband. They both are fine talents, but they somehow left their skills at home while filming that mess.
Last January, before that, I saw “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” as part of the Sundance Film Festival’s virtual screenings. It’s a dramedy that has its heart in the right place about a middle-aged woman wanting to get her groove on with a much younger man. It may be R-rated, but it doesn’t succumb to the cliches that have destroyed our movie-going experiences. In fact, it’s more concerned with words than sex.
In “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande,” Emma Thompson plays Nancy Stokes, the middle-aged woman, and Daryl McCormack is Leo Grande, the much younger man. She needs to finally have an orgasm, and he needs the money for college, and that’s why he’s a sex worker hired by her. She’s a bit awkward, and he’s charming. So, there could be a spark between them, or they could be just friends.
They have their sexual encounters, but they also have their conversations. Neither Leo’s Irish-Catholic mother nor his solider brother know about his real job, and both think he works on an oil rig. And Nancy is a retired teacher with a son, whom she finds boring, and a daughter, whom she can’t get along with.
The second meeting has Nancy wanting to make it worth while, since she can’t afford anymore sessions. Her first idea is to get a blow job, but like the first meeting, they engage in conversations and activities. They both dance to Alabama Shakes’ “Always Alright,” and he tells her to appreciate her body.
But like the best chemistries, in the third meeting, they have their conflicts regarding their personal lives, and how neither Leo Grande nor Nancy Stokes are their real names. I can’t spoil them for you, since I’m highly recommending this movie.
“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” isn’t just about the pleasures, but it’s also about how these two individuals in different generations deal with the outcomes of their own lives. Thompson gives a fine performance, but the real discovery is McCormack, whose breakout role should really get him more roles. Kudos to director Sophie Hyde and screenplay writer Katy Brand for giving him a connection with Thompson.
As an independent feature, it has the kind of ease that the “Before Sunrise” trilogy gives for Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s characters. It doesn’t settle for the most obvious approaches, but rather, it shows us how Thompson and McCormack are both able to resonate with intelligent character studies, and Thompson has taken on these kinds of dramatic roles before.
I almost forgot to mention that “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” and “Deep Water” are both distributed on Hulu. Looking at these two films, there’s a complete distinction that we must acknowledge. The former is wise and considerate with some of the best performances and writing on film, while the latter is dumb and mean with some of the worst performances and writing on film. Parts of the story lack the interest of other fascinating parts, but it still delivers with vulnerabilities and consistencies.
This is not a love story; it’s a platonic comedy with age differences, would-be sex, and personal aspects.
Streaming on Hulu This Friday
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