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Emma Thompson’s Sexy Evening at Sundance – The Hollywood Reporter




Intimate in every way, Good luck to you, Leo Grande represents an assertive and immensely likeable British comedy-drama. Admittedly, it’s more problem-focused than character-driven, like a hip advice column story, but with tracking shots. But that didacticism works given that it features Emma Thompson as a widowed, primitive high school religious studies teacher who hires Daryl McCormack’s sex worker for a date, hoping to get a orgasm for the very first time.

Naturally, the course of real fun goes smoothly, but along the way, this lean, sensitively performed two-hander, written by British comedian Katy Brand and directed by Australian Sophie Hyde (Animals, 52 tuesdays), paints a refreshingly sexual portrait of a client-escort relationship, but with a client for a change. Although older female viewers seem to be Leoobvious target, other demographics would also come into its wake. Theatrical returns may be modest, but online they will gush like a river in the spring.

Good luck to you, Leo Grande

The essential

Sex-positive and positively sexy.

Place: Sundance Film Festival (previews)
To throw: Daryl McCormack, Emma Thompson, Isabella Laughland
Director: Sophie Hyde
Scriptwriter : Brand Katy

1 hour 37 minutes

Although it was filmed in Norwich, Norfolk, about 100 miles from London, the town is not named and the story could be set in just about any hotel room in the UK , or at least any city big enough to have male escorts working discreetly in the area. In fact, the action is so confined to one location that you’d almost think Brand had written it as a play originally. (Indeed, if it works as a feature film, it may one day become a theatrical work.)

In a lavish but anonymous hotel suite with lovely city views and a well-stocked mini-bar, Dublin-accented escort Leo Grande (McCormack, of Peaky Blinders) arrives to meet Nancy Stokes. (She’s played by Thompson, who, although she’s always worked fairly steadily, has been having some screen time lately with meatier roles than usual, for example in Late at night or the superb BBC/HBO series in six episodes years and years.)

Nancy lost her husband two years ago, and he was the only man she had had sex with. Now she wants professional help to see if she can finally feel a real orgasm, after always faking it. Also, she would like to try other types of sex (oral, give and take, then both at the same time) and positions (doggy style?) that her late husband never wanted to try and she was too shy to insist on.

Confident and silky Leo – who not only has the frictionless manner of a Harley Street therapist, but is also clearly smart and educated judging by his use of words like “empirically” – is unfazed by the prospect of meeting all these demands. He also insists that he doesn’t need little blue pills to help him perform since he insists that he finds Nancy very attractive.

Overly critical of her own body – like so many women, especially postmenopausal women – she refuses to believe it. And yet, over several weeks of spaced-out meetings, Nancy comes to accept him at his word and learns to appreciate not only Leo’s body, but her own as well.

Viewers who might assume this is going in the direction of a gender change A pretty woman are in for a refreshing surprise. No – spoiler alert! — Leo and Nancy won’t fall in love, but they will develop an undying bond and respect for each other. Breaking the assumptions of Nancy (and, by extension, the audience), Leo (and, by extension, the filmmakers, who interviewed actual sex workers for the research) admits that sex work can be dangerous and that it there is a dark side to the job. But like many of his colleagues, Leo honestly loves what he does and takes pride in his well-honed skills. Not only is he good with people and deeply empathetic, but he’s able to find something beautiful and exciting in any client, even an 82-year-old woman he quietly talks to Nancy about.

Nonetheless, as with any professional therapist, he has strict boundaries, and Nancy finds herself breaking them when she does a bit of internet stalking and finds out Leo’s real name. (Both admit early on that they use aliases.) Furious, he immediately leaves but only returns to retrieve his misplaced cell phone, giving Nancy a chance to apologize. Eventually, they trust each other enough to open up more, and Leo can explain why he grew apart from his mother, who thinks he works on the North Sea oil rigs, while Nancy can rethink own biases and past positions.

That the movie has to work toward that kind of reveal in order to create a dramatic arc seems like a minor disservice to the professional relationship, rarely explored honestly in the movie, it’s at the heart of the story. One would imagine the actors and filmmakers would have even considered going another route and showing Leo and Nancy having unsimulated sex — a move not unprecedented in arthouse film — though that would of course have yielded a very different product.

Instead, whenever Leo and Nancy finally finish talking and get to work, the camera quietly pulls away and lets them. However, it is clear from the dialogue that followed how much these transactions affected them both, especially Nancy.

A crucial blow finally looks at Nancy, ultimately! has her first orgasm, and somehow Thompson even manages to blush like she’s not even acting. Minutes later, she’s standing in front of a full-length mirror, fully nude and lit enough to show every stretch mark and cellulite bump, and she may have never looked so sexy and alluring in her entire career. Some viewers might find it a little hard to buy Thompson as the shy, repressed schoolteacher in the film’s early reels, but by the end, she’s so endearing that it’s impossible to resist.

With his hard work against such a force, McCormack is holding his own very admirably. Indeed, the camera loves him, and the way director Hyde and his regular cinematographer-editor Bryan Mason shoot him, especially standing close to his ever-moving, expressive face as he listens to Nancy, is a master class in how to film an actor. in a way that captures their beauty but does not objectify them. He may be the subject of the salutary phrase in the title, but he is indeed the common subject of the film.




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