80 SHADES OF GREY – Film review “The Hollywood Reporter”, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Starring Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack

Premieres on HULU June 17 1 hour 37 minutes

Emma Thompson stars as a repressed widow who hires a sex worker to help her discover what all the fuss over orgasms is about in director Sophie Hyde’s comedy-drama

Intimate in every sense, “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande'” represents an affirming, immensely likable British film. Admittedly, it’s more issue-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 prim, widowed high school religious teacher who hires Daryl McCormack as a sex worker for a date, hoping to have an orgasm for the first time ever.

Naturally, the course of true pleasure n’er runs smooth, but along the way this lean, sensitively performed two-hander, written by British comedian Katy Brand and directed by Australian Sophie Hyde, builds up a refreshingly sex-positive portrait of a client-escort relationship, but with a female customer for a change.

In a plush, but anonymous hotel suite in Norwich, Norfolk with a nice view and a fully stocked mini bar, escort Leo Grande (McCormack from “Peaky Blinders”) arrives to meet Nancy Stokes played by Thompson. Nancy lost her husband 2 years ago, and he was the only man she’d ever had sex with. Now she wants some professional help to see if she can finally experience a real orgasm having always faked it. She’s also like to try some other kinds of sex (oral) and positions (doggy) that her late husband was never interested in and she was too shy to insist on.

SPOILER ALERT! Leo and Nancy do not fall in love, but they do develop a bond and an abiding respect of each other. Breaking down Nancy’s prejudice the film concedes that sex work can be dangerous and that there is a dark side to the profession. But like many of his colleagues, Leo honestly enjoys what he does, and takes pride in his well-honed skills. Not only is her good with people and deeply empathic, he’s able to find something beautiful and arousing in any client, even an 82 year old woman he discreetly tells Nancy about.

Nevertheless, he has strict boundaries and Nancy violates them when she does a bit of internet stalking and works out Leo’s real name. They admit early on that they’re using pseudonyms. Furious, he leaves immediately, but comes back only to look for his mislaid cellphone, giving Nancy a chance to apologize. Eventually, they trust each other enough to open up more, and Leo can explain why he’s estranged from his mother, while Nancy can rethink her own prejudices and past positions.

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