Good Luck to You, Leo Grande – Emma Thompson Hires a Male Prostitute in a Charming Comedy

MOVIE REVIEW – Emma Thompson portrays the full range of emotions with routine professionalism as a former religious teacher searching for sexual gratification in a funny and sympathetic two-part film comedy.


Emma Thompson gives a very personal, emotionally rich and intimate performance in writer Katy Brand and director Sophie Hyde’s entertaining film, which is more of a theatre piece in a film format. Although Good Luck to You, Leo Grande can’t exactly be called a crowd pleaser, Brand – who is a standout in both writing and performing comedies – has a professional comedic sense of how and where to elicit a reaction from the audience. The sometimes emotional and naive film is watchable as a whole and holds the viewer’s attention even though we only see two characters for most of the film.


Middle-class religious teacher pays for sex


Thompson plays Nancy, a middle-aged widow and former religious teacher who, after a lifetime of unsatisfying marriages to one man (her late husband), decides to pay for a discreet afternoon of sex in an upscale hotel room. With Nancy’s lively and teacherly need for education and self-improvement, she feels she must have a few more sexual experiences before she dies, including the most important and climatic one.

We have already seen similar characters from Thompson, as there is, for example, the woman who secretly cries in the bathroom in Love Actually because Alan Rickman is cheating on her or the nurse who had sex with Jeff Goldblum in The Big Bang.

And Daryl McCormack (Isaiah Jesus from the TV series Peaky Blinders) plays a suitably mysterious young man he hired online, who goes by the name “Leo Grande”. Relatively recently, “escort” was the term used when they wanted to avoid the word “prostitute” – or in this case, “male hooker” – but of course, Leo unconsciously uses the term “sex worker” with polite professionalism.


There should have been less real sex in this sex comedy


Leo is a tolerant, smilingly forgiving male prostitute, like a therapist who’s seen and heard it all or a concierge at a cool boutique hotel who can arrange anything you want. At the same time, Nancy babbles to him about her unhappiness, her disappointment in her children and herself, and the only frustrating moment of sexual rapture he experienced when he was 20 years old on holiday in Greece. The woman is torn between delaying or abandoning this whole absurd idea and between having to have sex right now (“I can’t stand the tension!”). In fact, the audience can share in this impatience since the purchased sex itself; his portrayal makes this film a bit of a test, not the well-written lines of bittersweet dialogue. Time and sex scenes have really taken their toll on Emma Thompson, or rather: “sexy” settings are not good for the aesthetics of the film and, therefore, not for the film as a whole.


Sex saint or real?


And as for Leo, Nancy says, “You’re some kind of sex saint – are you real?” And again, we can only think about the same thing. Just as the buyer in the purchased sex transaction is the one with the power and capital, Thompson’s character is the one with the rich backstory. Leo sometimes seems empty, almost like an android from Detroit: Become Human. (Daryl McCormack, who also resembles his main character, Jesse Williams.) We expect Leo’s cheerfully carefree manner to crack and, of course, crack. Still, the film rejects the traditional explanation of unhappiness and shows that some sex workers are happy with their job.

The film is at its strongest when it shows the chilling process of Nancy shedding her inhibitions as she becomes Leo’s regular: not her sexual inhibitions, but her personal inhibitions. Thompson shows how her wretched need to humble herself before Leo evaporates, her confessional misery, as his bossy, cocky teacher mannerisms surface. He becomes more confident and brings out the reactionary side of my dislike, giving free rein to his own ego – he even states that the younger generation needs a good little war to get ahead of them.


This film would not have been as good with a different “setup”


Of course, you can’t avoid the thought experiment: what if it was a middle-aged man with a younger female sex worker? What if Bill Nighy was on the screen with a not-so-famous female star? Of course, it wouldn’t be the same; the tone would shift away from comedy, but that’s because gender power relations affect the experience of purchased sex, like any other experience. Perhaps Good Luck to You, Leo Grande does not aim for a piercingly in-depth analysis of sex and human existence. However, this is a funny, compassionate and humane comedy with great performances and great direction – but we dare recommend it only to fans of the genre.


Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Direction - 8.4
Acting - 8.2
Story - 7.4
Visuals/music/audio - 7.8
Ambience - 7.6



This is a funny, compassionate and humane comedy with great performances and great direction - but we dare recommend it only to fans of the genre.

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines - including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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