Good Luck to You, Leo Grande review: Emma Thompson finds more than sex in tender, taboo-breaking dramedy
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022 movie)
Insisting that a film about hiring a male escort is actually about intimacy sounds like some kind of reverse Pretty Woman fantasy. And Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (on Hulu June 17) seems at first like it might be another, more familiar kind of movie: How Emma Got Her Groove Back. But Sophie Hyde's two-handed chamber piece turns out to be bolder and sweeter and less predictable than that: a tender coming-of-late-middle-age drama with a quietly radical idea of self-acceptance at its center.
Emma Thompson stars as Nancy Stokes, a sensible-looking widow who decides, after a passionless 31-year marriage, to finally find out what all the fuss is about by hiring a young Irishman who calls himself Leo Grande (The Wheel of Time's Daryl McCormack) to do the job professionally. When he shows up to her tastefully generic hotel room, Leo seems like the full package: a golden-skinned Adonis who gently deflects her steady stream of neuroses and breezily uses words like "empirically." (That last bit especially is catnip to Nancy, a retired teacher).
He may be an expert, but she makes it clear he shouldn't get his hopes up; she's gone a whole lifetime without an orgasm, and two hours with a handsome stranger won't change that. But she would like before she dies to feel the touch of a man who does things differently, which doesn't sound hard: For three decades, her late husband's lovemaking had all the intensity and eroticism of an oil change. To attempt to fix that, though, Leo will first have to break down an emotional wall so well constructed that even as he's trying to kiss her neck, Nancy can't seem to stop piling on the bricks.
If she didn't, there wouldn't be much of a movie. And the consummations that follow in several separate sessions happen tastefully off-screen, at least initially — secondary to the long, looping conversations that become their foreplay. She admits that she might not crazy about her grown son ("boring") and daughter (flighty, bohemian, always in a crisis); he allows her to grill him on his education and upbringing (his mother believes he works on an oil rig). But Hyde (who made 2020's great, underseen Animals) and writer Katy Brand have a longer game in mind beyond Nancy's big O.
McCormack's Leo may be entirely too dreamy to believably be bookable by the hour (if a show like Bridgerton doesn't immediately pick him up, they're crazy), but he's remarkably winning in the role, bringing layers that belie his character's early, easy charm: when Nancy, drunk on her new empowerment, crosses a line, he reclaims his time with a hurt and fury that shocks her. And Thompson is, unsurprisingly, a force: alternately brittle and vulnerable and mordantly witty, her whole body vibrating with a lifetime's worth of sublimated desire. When she stands exposed and alone in front of a mirror in the movie's already-much-discussed final shot, it feels less like a prurient shock than it should, maybe, to see the two-time Oscar winner this way: Imagine the small miracle of allowing a 62-year-old woman to gaze at her full, unadulterated self on screen, and like what she sees. Grade: B+
- Sundance Film Festival wrap-up: The best, the worst, and the most nude of 2022
- Emma Thompson reveals intense way she rehearsed full-frontal nude scene for new film
- Emma Thompson and Emma Stone on their wickedly stylish Cruella rivalry
- 2022 awards season calendar: Oscars, Grammys, Golden Globes, and more