Thought #1: Last night Hollywood Elsewhere sat through Sophie Hyde‘s Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, and I was more or less okay with it, minor issues aside. It’s a reasonably engaging two-hander about a 55-year-old woman (Emma Thompson‘s “Nancy Stokes”, who doesn’t look 50ish as much as her actual age, which is 62) and a handsome young sex worker (Daryl McCormack‘s “Leo Grande”). The widowed Nancy has led a rather sex-less and certainly orgasm-free life, and she’s hired Leo in order to sample the real thing.
The film (97 minutes) is basically three sexual and very personal encounters in a hotel room, and one in a hotel bar. (Or something like that.) It’s an intimate, occasionally amusing, open-hearted exploration of an older woman’s sexuality and what a transformational thing good sex can be (nothing wrong with that!), along with the gradually building rapport between Nancy and Leo. It’s smoothly and nimbly performed, especially by Thompson.
Thought #2: But the 92% Rotten Tomatoes rating is all but meaningless, simply because most critics would be terrified of writing honestly about a film that ends with Thompson doing full-frontal nudity in front of a mirror. Nobody would dare say an unkind or unsupportive word. One critic has stated that Leo Grande “comes ring-fenced with the kind of bullet-proof worthiness that makes any negative criticism seem crass, glib and needlessly cruel.”
I don’t regard myself as cruel but I do lean toward candid, and I have to say…
Thought #3: Most of us, I suspect, have problems with older or overweight people performing nude scenes or sex scenes. Anne Reid‘s nude scenes in Roger Michell‘s The Mother (’03) were, for me, slightly discomforting. Kathy Bates did nude scenes in Hector Babenco‘s At Play in the Fields of the Lord (’91) and again in About Schmidt (’02), and the less said about them, the better. The middle-aged Dennis Hopper and Amy Irving were nude in Bruno Barreto‘s Carried Away, and that was no more or less comfortable than it sounds.
Thought #4: I wouldn’t want to see a nude scene with anyone who’s too old or saggy or out of shape. There are very few older actors whom I’d be willing to watch without clothing, but think about the possibilities. Imagine, for example, if Neil Young decided to star in a film that called for full-frontal nudity. I’d be terrified by that prospect. Imagine the horror of watching, say, Jack Nicholson as he looked ten years ago…imagine portly Jack with his gross animal…please! Let’s just forget the idea of older actors getting naked for any reason, except, perhaps, for muscular, rugged-looking guys like Harrison Ford but even then it might be a problem.
Thought #5: The idea of older women enjoying sex as much as any 17 or 22 or 38 or 46 year-old is great. Graying, neck-wattled women experiencing shuddering orgasms in their 50s, 60s or 70s sounds lovely and delightful…Hollywood Elsewhere fully approves. Just don’t ask me to contemplate their seen-better-days bods. And if an actress of Thompson’s age wants to do a full-frontal nude scene, fine. I just think it’s fair to ask them to first get a nice tummy tuck and boob lift. (My friends in Prague are excellent at handling both.) It’s fair to add that a woman’s navel should always be vertical or perfectly round, and it needs to be an “inny,” of course. But it can’t be horizontal, if you follow my drift.
Thought #6: The scene in the hotel bar involves an overweight waitress (Isabella Laughland‘s “Becky”) expressing curiosity and to some extent a slight degree of alarm about the relationship between Nancy and Leo. They initially lie to her by saying they’re meeting about one of them buying the other’s car, or something like that. And then they come clean. Becky is very involved and whatnot, and I was saying to myself “what has this waitress got to do with anything? Who cares what she thinks about Leo or Nancy’s sexuality or whatever? She’s just a waitress, and waitresses don’t count. Or this one doesn’t, at least.”
Thought #7: I have to admit that I got scared when I heard this movie was made with a “sex positive” attitude. That sounds a little too much like “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” The best sex is usually animalistic, runting, howling, raw, skanky, pervy, in some way objectionable. HE believes that the famous Woody Allen line — “Is sex dirty? Only when it’s being done right” — still applies.
Thought #8: Good Luck To You, Leo Grande has been described by many as a comedy. It is not that. Katy Brand‘s screenplay is brisk and amusing and allows for some self-lamenting humor on Nancy’s part, but that doesn’t make it a comedy — it makes it a mildly amusing, briskly-written character piece.
Thought #9: Sophie Hyde‘s film will go straight to Hulu. The target audience is expected to be older women. I guess so, but I can’t imagine any older woman being at peace with the sight of a female physique gone to seed. They know all about that on their own dime. People generally go to movies to escape their cares and woes, for the most part.