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'Good Luck to You, Leo Grande' goes places Hollywood is usually afraid of

Daryl McCormack and Emma Thompson in 'Good Luck to You, Leo Grande'
Searchlight Pictures
Daryl McCormack and Emma Thompson in 'Good Luck to You, Leo Grande'

Here’s something that’s hard to do: make a movie that tells a straightforward story using only two people and one location that doesn’t feel like a stage play.

And here’s something else that’s hard, albeit for cultural reasons, rather than stylistic ones: make a lightly comedic movie that explores the sexuality of a woman in her 60s in a direct, sensitive, unreserved way, and have an actual movie star playing that woman.

That this is only part of what is accomplished in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande must be some kind of wizardry, but here we are. Emma Thompson plays Nancy, a widow who’s decided to add something to her life, in this case by hiring a sex worker to give her the chance to sleep with a young, attractive man who will do things with her that she never experienced in her decades of marriage. That man is Leo Grande, played by relative newcomer Daryl McCormack, and who is, indeed, impossibly beautiful, charming, and skilled. But Nancy has hangups, some of them personal, some of them just because of a lack of opportunity, and some of them because of societal ideas about what women “should” and “shouldn’t” be doing. Leo, for his part, is exceptional at projecting a fantasy, though he is, as Nancy learns, also a human being.

There aren’t exactly twists and turns, but I can comfortably say you won’t know where the movie’s headed, simply because people are complicated and the movie’s writer, Katy Brand, and director, Sophie Hyde, do a heck of a job treating these characters like people. Emma Thompson is stellar in what is a genuinely risky role, as we know all too well how women her age are treated in Hollywood, and how hard we try to de-sex older women.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande covers a lot of ground regarding our attitudes toward sex and sex work, and its wide range means it addresses some of these things more successfully than others, but it ultimately does it all with true empathy and a pleasantly warm regard for the joy of sex.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is on Hulu.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.