A Grande “O” Time

Good Luck to You Leo Grande Credit: Fox Searchlight

“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” was set to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. As one of the first in-person film festivals, the film (and gathering in person), were highly anticipated. Then, right before the festival, Sundance went virtual. The film screened virtually. The filmmakers didn’t get to appear in-person, though there was a great Q&A online with the filmmakers. Fortunately Berlinale screened the movie and it was a hit. Director Sophie Hyde, creator Katy Brand, and stars Emma Thompson & Daryl McCormack (“Peaky Blinders”) got to walk the red carpet. There was a great panel discussion that can be viewed here: Berlinale Press Conference.

Clowning on the red carpet at the Berlin Film Festival, Berlinale 2022

Hulu announced this week that “Good Luck” will be streaming June 17th. It makes me glad that so many more people will get a chance to see this frank, and surprisingly funny film. The subject matter begs for extended conversations about shame, sexual pleasure, and living your most authenic self. Yet I’m surprised that Searchlight didn’t believe enough in the marketability of this wonderful film to give it the theaterical release it deserves. Lionsgate UK is releasing the film theatrically in the UK. Here in the USA, I guess we’re not considered grown-up enough for the film! I’d argue that we do need more grown-up fare. This film has such an important message, for men and women and for mature teens to adults. Not everyone has Hulu, nor would new subscribers necessarily rush to add the streaming service to view a film featuring an older woman seeking sexual fullfillment. Even if the repressed British school marm is played by the talented Dame Emma Thompson whom Katy Brand wrote the role for…

The Philadelphia Film Society programmed the film for it’s Philly SpringFest Closing Night. There was such minimal marketing of this mini-film festival that most screenings were sparsely attended. This Closing Night film was no exception. Sadly, the introduction didn’t include the information that there was a recorded interview at the end of the film. Most of the audience had exited that theater by the time the screen lit up. Michael Lerman, PFS Artistic Director, did a great job of comparing this film with Australian director Sophie Hyde‘s earlier work (“52 Tuesdays” & “Animals”). A little puzzling that the focus wasn’t kept squarely on the film presented. It was nice to hear Hyde discuss the filming of “Good Luck” and the pleasure of working with her small team. Independent cinema can be such a challenge. I’m so grateful that the PFS programmed so many films that would otherwise not be seen on a big screen.

A retired and now widowed, British religious school teacher decides to pursue her own sexual fulfillment. After a lifetime of joyless sex exclusively with her husband, Nancy is finally ready to take a big risk. The film is set in a posh hotel. Nancy (Thompson) tries to overcome her fears and repression with the help of a gentle sex guide, someone she’s hired from an escort site. Leo Grande (McCormack) is physically beautiful but also kind and gentle. He must constantly talk Nancy into going through with something she herself has planned and saved for over the years.

Those expecting a sex comedy as the film is advertised, may find themselves in for a surprise. “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” is certainly funny. As Nancy reveals to Leo how she used to lecture her female students (“the sluts”), it’s amusing to watch her realize that she was chastising the wrong people. Some of the awkward moments as Nancy attempts to learn sexual skills are chuckle-inducing. Mainly though, the film isn’t laughing at her character or her plight, but cheering her on as she releases some long-held false beliefs.

The Hollywood Reporter reviewer who tagged the film as “Sex-Positive and Positively Sexy” summed up the film correctly. There is frank sex talk in the movie. Most of the physical intimacy happens off screen but there is some full-frontal nudity (Thompson is beyond brave!) and a lovely long shot of Leo’s backside (a couple of older gals sitting behind me made their appreciation known–whistles and an “Oh, baby”!). The final intimate scene fits in an array of sexual positions and gratifications in a remarkable, and joyful, montage.

The most pivotal scene doesn’t happen in the hotel room. Nancy has transgressed and overstepped the boundaries of trust with Leo. When they met for the final time in the hotel coffee shop, the waitress recognizes her former stern school teacher. It’s in apologizing for her improper lecture of her female students and letting this one young woman know that “pleasure is important”, that the audience (and Leo) knows that Nancy has really changed. She’s recognized that sex and intimacy aren’t something to be ashamed of, indeed, sexuality is a celebration of what it means to be fully alive.

So mark your calendars for June 17th and tell your friends and family. This is one film that everyone should see.

Drinks with Films rating: 5 glasses of champagne (out of 5), chugged to get your courage up and then, to celebrate lives that are now open to possibilities.

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