Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is not a film about girl meets boy, but rather, girl hires boy. The new film from director Sophie Hyde and writer Katy Brand depicts several pivotal, turbulent meetings between a middle-aged woman (played by Emma Thompson) and a young, attractive male escort (played by Daryl McCormack). Its structure and contained setting — nearly all of the film takes place in one hotel room — gives Good Luck to You, Leo Grande the pace and scope of a stage play.
In fact, the film’s script lends itself to the stage so well that it’s nearly impossible not to be reminded of the theater while watching Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. That’s both a good and bad thing. On the one hand, its limited scope allows Good Luck to You, Leo Grande to feel claustrophobic in a way that helps elevate some of its more dramatic moments and makes it easier to become engrossed in the conversations between its two leads. On the other hand, the film never manages to achieve the same level of intimacy that a stage production of Brand’s script might have, which lessens the impact of its more sensual moments.
Consequently, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande ends up being a surprisingly uneven film. As a compelling, if overly didactic, film about the importance of maintaining a healthy sex life, the movie more or less succeeds. However, as an erotic two-hander about the pleasure of sex, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande comes up disappointingly short.
A midlife adventure
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande follows Nancy Stokes (Thompson), a widow who decides to hire a male escort in the hope of experiencing the kind of romantic and sexual pleasure that she was denied throughout her marriage. But when Leo Grande, the escort in question, first meets Nancy, she’s a bundle of nerves and insecurities. She’s unsure of herself and is constantly grappling with the questions bouncing around in her mind about the moral implications of hiring an escort.
For his part, Leo takes all of Nancy’s concerns in stride, assuring her of not only her attractiveness but also the joy he gets out of being a sex worker. His compliments and assurances predictably bounce off of Nancy’s many emotional and physical barriers, which means that their four meetings together turn into long, winding conversations with brief bursts of sexual activity scattered throughout, rather than the other way around.
Katy Brand’s script, for the most part, ensures that Good Luck to You, Leo Grande moves at a fairly rapid pace over the course of its 97-minute runtime. The script’s episodic structure does result in the film coming dangerously close to feeling repetitive around its midpoint, but Brand wisely shifts the dynamic and mood of Leo and Nancy’s relationship shortly after that feeling sets in. While the movie’s more contentious moments do feel contrived at points as well, its greatest pleasures can be found in the instances when Leo and Nancy each open up and, in the process of doing so, allow themselves to be swayed by the other’s presence.
Those moments, in particular, are elevated by the easy, natural chemistry that Thompson and McCormack have on-screen together. While Nancy and Leo take a while to become comfortable around one other, Thompson and McCormack seem like a natural screen pair from the moment they first cross paths in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. Thompson has long been one of the entertainment industry’s most versatile performers, and she brings her usual shades of wit, intelligence, and vulnerability to Nancy, a character who might have become far too grating in a lesser actor’s hands.
That said, it’s ultimately McCormack who lifts up Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. He brings a soft, warm sensuality to his performance as Leo, an escort who has become adept at understanding and catering to his clients’ requests. Many of the film’s best moments come when McCormack is left to either ponder his own thoughts or, as he does several times throughout the movie, silently note the shifts in Nancy’s moods so that he can respond in ways that make her more comfortable.
One dance sequence, in particular, leaves a lasting impression solely because of how well it highlights McCormack’s smooth, fluid physical performance. If Good Luck to You, Leo Grande ends up making any kind of a lasting impact among audiences, it’ll likely be because of how resoundingly it announces McCormack as an up-and-coming performer to watch out for.
The power of pleasure
Together, McCormack and Thompson bring enough heart and charm to Good Luck to You, Leo Grande to make its story feel worthwhile. They manage to do that in spite of Hyde and Brand’s various unnecessary attempts at injecting more conflict into Nancy and Leo’s relationship — a decision that nearly derails the entire film. Fortunately, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande manages to recover from its missteps in its last act.
That said, the film does make the mistake of repeatedly verbalizing its themes. While understandable, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande would likely have been better off leaving its moral lessons and messages unspoken. The film’s story is strong enough to communicate its ideas without needing to say them out loud. In fact, while the film does include a lengthy third-act speech from Thompson’s Nancy about the importance of sexual positivity, it’s not nearly as effective as the moment in which Leo and Nancy first truly connect.
The scene in question, which comes near the end of the film’s first act, sees Nancy recall a moment of missed connection from her past. McCormack’s Leo watches her face closely while she speaks, noticing the tears brimming in her eyes before they fall, and his response is not only a clear sign of understanding and care but also a powerful reminder of how important sexual fulfillment is to a person’s life. Even more importantly, it’s a moment of connection and revelation that doesn’t require that any words be spoken out loud, which makes it stand out even more in a film that’s as dialogue-driven as Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande premieres Friday, June 17 on Hulu.