A British widow of a certain age raids her savings and screws up her courage to hire a sex worker in “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande,” a dramedy that goes down easy thanks to the sexy-droll presence of Oscar winner Emma Thompson.
And let’s see if we finish this review with no further obvious innuendoes, shall we?
In dramatic terms, it’s a classic “two-hander,” just two strangers in an upscale but non-descript hotel room making a journey from prim and pitiful to pelvic pinochle, with pain and unflattering personal revelations getting in the way of mutual understanding, on or off the clock, over a series of “meetings.”
“Nancy” is a nervous wreck whose “May I kiss your cheek?” tells us this is her “first time” better than making that direct admission to young, hunky sex worker “Leo” (Daryl McCormack of “Peaky Blinders” and “Pixie”). Thankfully, Leo’s a pro and has some experience slow-walking a 50-60something with limited sexual experience into this situation she’s arranged and paid for. Still, this is going to take some work.
“What would you most desire?”
“Am I a disappointment, so to speak?” And “I won’t be ‘faking it.’ I’m not in the mood.”
She’s a quietly neurotic “Get it over with” bucket lister, of a sort. He’s the patient, even-more-guarded one, and in the manner of such theatrical constructions, something of a sexual psychotherapist. And a wit.
“It’s an orgasm, not a Faberge egg. People have them every day.”
Their banter ranges from lightly biting to sadly confessional, with a liberal dusting of wildly inappropriate — “When did you last see your mother?”
And the relationship, such as it is, evolves. Each gives up a little piece of the Venmo-enforced facade at a time and wounds and flaws are exposed, empathy is earned and/or dashed to bits. The characters have enough layers to seem human, fully-formed and in equal measure loveable and contemptible.
Of course its two person cast and limited set make “Good Luck” feel like a play. And as such, some of the obstacles and conflicts brought into the relationship at regular, clockwork intervals have an air of arbitrary, preordained “dramatic requirement” about them.
And the finale has a grasping quality that plays like a shock value afterthought…or the film’s cynical selling point.
Like most critics, I just adore that Emma. But this “Isn’t she brave?” movie gave me a serious case of the “likes,” a tad too contrived to embrace. Not without protection, anyway.
Rating: R for sexual content, graphic nudity and some language
Cast: Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack
Credits: Directed by Sophie Hyde, scripted by Katy Brand. A Searchlight release.
Running time: 1:37